Milwaukee Brewers catcher/first baseman Blake Lalli made a name for himself Wednesday night when he hit a walk-off single in the ninth inning to defeat the San Francisco Giants 4-3. The question that ran through the minds of many fans in Milwaukee was who exactly is the newcomer?
Most 29-year-olds in Major League Baseball have seen quite a bit of action. At the very least, they have spent at least one full season in the big leagues. However, Lalli is not most 29-year-olds. In fact, the left-handed batter has only recorded three major-league hits, including the walk-off Wednesday night.
Lalli spent four years at Gardner-Webb University where he played third base and catcher for the school’s baseball team. In fact, the Atlantic Sun Conference named him to their first team in 2005 as a third baseman and again in 2006 as a catcher. Obviously, it was evident early on in his playing career that he had the capabilities to play multiple positions, something that would certainly help him through the ranks in professional baseball.
The Chicago Cubs signed Lalli in 2006 as an undrafted free agent. It took him a couple of years to get going, but he finally pulled it together at the plate in 2008. He lifted his game to the next level over the next few years in which he was named to the Southern League All-Star team in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
At that point, the Cubs felt the need to give him a shot in the big leagues after what he had accomplished over a four-year span. Lalli became the first alumni of Gardner-Webb University to ever appear in the majors when he made his debut on May 18, 2012. It is something he has to be proud of no matter what happens in his career.
After recording two hits in 15 at-bats with two RBI, Chicago demoted him back to Triple-A where he posted a .259 batting average with seven home runs and 40 RBI in 301 at-bats. In late August of last season, he was dealt to the Oakland Athletics. Less than two months later the Brewers signed him to a minor-league deal with a Spring Training invite for this season.
Even though Lalli did not make the 25-man roster outright, injuries depleted Milwaukee’s roster at a rapid pace and forced the Brewers to call him up on April 9.
The Pennsylvania native did nothing in his first five at-bats over a two-game span in the series against the St. Louis Cardinals. However, he made up for it with his one-pitch at-bat that won the game for the Brewers in dramatic fashion.
Walking-off for the first time in his career with a new team is going to do wonders for Lalli’s confidence. He now feels apart of the team, which will allow him to feel more relaxed at the plate and in the field. It will be exciting to see what he does the next time manager Ron Roenicke calls his name as the first-year player has earned some more playing time.