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July 10, 2012Tate Blackman is aware of the number next to his name.
He's proud of it, but he's not one to brag about it or even mention it. Instead, it's a source of motivation for the Altamonte Springs (Lake Brantley), Fla., native.
Perfect Game rates Blackman, who committed to Ole Miss several months ago, the No. 1 middle infielder nationally for the 2014 class. The scouting service also has him the No. 31 overall prospect and the No. 9 player in Florida. Blackman said the goal is to just keep getting better.
"I'm honored to be ranked and all that, and it shows that hard work is paying off," Blackman said. "I just want to keep improving and keep progressing. That's the only way to stay with the competition."
Blackman is currently in Atlanta for the World Wood Bat Association 17U National Championship with the Orlando Scorpions. Next week he'll be in Fort Myers, Fla., for the BCS Finals and he recently completed both the National Showcase in Minneapolis, Minn., and the Tournament of Stars in Cary, N.C. A summer full of baseball is all Blackman knows, and it's what feels normal to him.
"It's weird when school starts back, and I'm not doing this," Blackman said. "Playing with the Scorpions has been great. They have given me awesome opportunities to improve and play against great competition."
The Scorpions organization has been a hotbed for Ole Miss recruiting in past years. The Rebels' 2012 roster featured five former Scorpions. However, Blackman said the connection wasn't the main reason he chose Ole Miss over Florida State.
"I obviously knew a lot of the guys that went to Ole Miss, but I'm not sure that played a huge role," Blackman said. "Coach (Cliff) Godwin is everywhere, and he watched me, and I guess I did enough to get an offer. The environment at Ole Miss and that level of baseball are what sold me. I wanted to do it early and get the pressure off, and I knew it was Ole Miss, so there wasn't a reason to wait."
Blackman draws many comparisons to former Ole Miss infielder Zack Cozart offensively and defensively. He's currently playing second base with the Scorpions, but he profiles as an elite shortstop. The one weakness currently is his speed. Blackman broke his leg during his freshman year and is still working to get his 60 time back. Once he accelerates, things are normal, but the start isn't there yet. He ran a 7.23 earlier this month but expects to be around 6.8 in the future.
There's also a strong baseball pedigree in Blackman's family. Tate's three older brothers all excel at the game. Trey Blackman just completed his career at Stetson. Ted Blackman is currently at Coastal Carolina, and Tanner Blackman is at Stetson.
"My brothers help me in a lot of ways and make sure I know what to expect with things," Tate Blackman said. "It's unbelievable resource I'm grateful for."
In two years, Blackman will likely have a decision to make regarding his future, but the college vs. career debate can wait.
"There's so much time before that's an issue," Blackman said. "The dream is to play Major League Baseball, but there are several routes to make that happen. I'm excited about what's ahead."
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