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Blade Hampton signs to play baseball for Berea

JCHS senior Blade Hampton recently finalized what could be one of the most important decisions at this time in his life, choosing to play baseball for Berea College in Kentucky. Surrounded by family, friends, and coaches, Hampton made the choice official last week in the high school media center. Having played Longhorn baseball all four years, with numerous accomplishments along the way including a state district tournament run in 2012 and a very successful run as varsity catcher in 2013, it was not surprising that Hampton would sign on the collegiate level. What was intriguing was the motivation behind the choice, with Hampton citing not only the athletic but also the strong academic value associated with the school.
“It’s really a high level academic school and I want to challenge myself,” Hampton said. “I’m going into their nursing program. It will be tough, but I’m prepared. I think my nursing teacher, Ms. Hammons, has especially prepared me to do well in college academically. She does a great job and is my favorite teacher up here by far. I’ve talked to people going to Berea and know that the nursing program is one of the toughest programs up there but I’m expecting a challenge.”
That said, Hampton seemed equally excited about what Berea offers athletically, explaining that for him the college offers a total package. “The baseball program is really good,” said Hampton.  “I like where that program is going. Also, you can’t beat it financially. It works really well financially. As soon as I walked on campus I knew that’s where I wanted to go. Their coach invited me down to a showcase and it was last minute. We weren’t going to go at first but we ended up going and I’m glad we did. It was just a much better option for me financially and ended up a much better option all around for me.”
For Head Coach Pete Pavusek, who has worked with Hampton his entire high school career, the decision was a good one. Noting Blade’s remarkable work ethic, Pavusek expects great things in the future. “Blade is a good guy,” Pavusek began.  “He’s a good solid ball player and has come a long way. He’s really improved in the last year. He kind of got thrown into the mix last year with Ryan Smith getting hurt, and it was kind of a ‘ready or not here you go. You’re varsity starting catcher from here on out’. It was a little tough but he did really well, worked on his game over the summer, improved in some areas, and right now he’s about as solid of a catcher as there is as far as blocking balls up in the dirt, throwing runners out, calling good games, helping our pitching staff. He’s just really, really improved in all areas. I’m proud of him, really proud of him.”
Likewise, Assistant Coach Nicholas Perkins also commented on Hampton’s evolution into one of the team’s most solid players.  “I’m just very happy for Blade Hampton,” Perkins said.  “He has transformed himself as a baseball player since he entered our program. Physically, mentally, his work in the weight room, his dedication to nutrition, just in every aspect that a student athlete can improve he has improved. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached. He has always taken instruction with the understanding that we are trying to help him improve as a baseball player and as a young man. I think it’s a good fit for him academically and athletically and he’s having a good senior season for us. I know they are going to apply to be an NCAA Division II school and the coaching staff is excited about him coming to Berea, Kentucky. He’s been a pleasure to coach and I’m super excited for him.”
A solid athlete all around, Hampton’s career began with him trying just about every sport Johnson County offers. Yet eventually Blade settled into the one sport that seemed to suit him the most, golf notwithstanding, “I played football and basketball as a freshman but then I decided that I wanted to try baseball,” Hampton said.  “I dropped the other sports but picked up golf as a hobby. I was decent in other sports, but I always felt I was better and would have a better chance of going onto the next level in baseball. I love the game. It’s an interesting game, a mental game, a humbling game. I’ve always just loved the game of baseball really. It’s been a great time. When I’m older and I look back it will be some of my most fond memories, the most distinct memories I’ll ever have. I know that. I’m even going to miss the bus rides.”
That passion and dedication is just as strong now that Blade’s high school career is ending as it was when he began. “Being one of the only seniors, he’s also one of the only players to have experience at the varsity level and really had to step his game up, which he has,” Coach Pavusek pointed out. “Everybody has kind of followed him and he’s playing hard. The other guys see that and they step their game up. We really didn’t know going into this year what we were going to have, but catcher we didn’t have to worry about. We had to have a guy we could count on, a guy we could go to game in and game out and Blade has been there for us. He’s consistent. He’s always going to catch a good game for you. As far as the defensive side of it, he’s not had a bad game. The kids love him here at school, his teachers like him. He’s just a really well liked individual and the sky is the limit. He can do a lot of special things and make us proud.”
When asked what he hopes to ultimately get out of his college career, Hampton simply seemed appreciative of the opportunity to get to play, a response that is probably a strong indicator of his character as an individual.  “I want to play the role their coach wants me to,” Hampton said. “I want to do whatever it takes to help the team out. I’m not looking for individual stats, individual accolades. I just really want to make the team look good and not myself, honestly. Whether that’s catching bullpens for four years or being a starter and, who knows, maybe one of the better players in the conference, I just want to help the team out any way I can.”