LAFAYETTE — As he is on the verge of beginning his third and what may be final season as the Louisiana-Lafayette shortstop, Blake Trahan’s on-field value is a known commodity.
He is the engine that has made a prolific Cajuns offense go, a 5-foot-9 spark plug with a .339 career batting average. Despite playing one of the most challenging position on the field, he’s made just 23 errors in the past two seasons.
“I’ve never played with a shortstop that plays the game the way he does,” senior first baseman Greg Davis said. “I’ve seen him do a backhand dive and get up to throw bullets over to first base.
“Every day that guy does something that we talk about in the locker room.”
Without a doubt, he is the Cajuns’ most complete and best player, and is considered one of the best in the country, evidenced by preseason accolades ranging from a Sun Belt Player of the Year nomination to a spot as one of 50 players on the Golden Spikes Award watch list.
His performance with a bat and glove may have been what made him a household name in college baseball circles, but that’s only a portion of Trahan’s value to a Cajuns squad that lost a load of talent from last year’s 58-win team to graduation and the Major League Baseball draft.
The Cajuns say they need Trahan to continue being the good ol’ boy from Kinder, and Trahan is wired to oblige in his own quiet, unassuming way — until he gets on the field, at least. He prefers to be loud there.
Speak softly ...
Junior catcher Nick Thurman lives with Trahan. When they’re away from the baseball field, Thurman describes him as “chill,” which may not fully elucidate just how quiet Trahan can be.
Trahan is reserved in interviews. The fire he shows on the baseball field is reserved for the baseball field alone, and most inquiries into how he got to where he is get directed back to his teammates.
He goes about his business matter-of-factly, politely declining an opportunity to thump his chest to the media.
“I think that he doesn’t really like the spotlight,” senior infielder Tyler Girouard said.
But when he’s between the foul lines?
He believes he’s the baddest man on the field.
“The switch comes on when he takes the field,” Thurman said. “On the field, he’s a firecracker, he wants to compete, throw down and get after somebody.”
It’s a trait Trahan’s teammates love about him, and it inspires them to act in kind.
“He brings energy every day,” Davis said. “It can be raining out here and 30 degrees, and you know you can look to Blake to bring some energy.”
Trahan looked almost apologetic when the dichotomy between on-field Blake and off-field Blake is brought up. He doesn’t want his on-field swagger to be misconstrued for off-field arrogance.
But without that version of himself? He might not be the same player.
“That’s just the competitive nature,” Trahan said. “It’s just that will to win, and it might come out a little cocky at times, but that’s just how I play. Off the field, you’ve got to stay humble.”
Humility suits Trahan.
It’s love, baby
Trahan and Lee Atkins arrived with the Cajuns baseball program the same year and became fast friends.
Don’t recognize the name? It might be because Atkins is a student clubhouse manager.
Whatever perceived separation in status may exist between an All-American shortstop and a student manager doesn’t apply in Trahan’s world.
“We’re really good friends,” Atkins said. “We have our own little handshakes and everything. It’s love, baby, that’s what he tells me every time he sees me.
“Everything with that kid is awesome.”
Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux is fond of saying Trahan was blessed with two gifts. First, he has an innate ability to slow the game down, something Robichaux said often takes players years to master, if they ever manage to figure it out at all.
Second, Trahan is just an honestly good guy who has managed not to buy into his own hype.
“He has every right to have an ego with all his accomplishments and awards and the press,” Robichaux said. “You meet him and you have this belief that this kid would be a certain way, and he’s not like that.
“He’s never bigger than anybody else. That’s what makes him so respected on our team.”
What can Blake do for you?
Every year, without fail, sports journalists around the country will seek answers from coaches and teammates about who will step up and be a leader on whichever team they’re covering. It’s a seductive standby; Player A is stepping into a leadership role this season.
Where it gets interesting is when a coach or teammate will delve into the how and why, especially when it paints a picture of someone who slides into the role naturally rather than forcing it.
There’s no stepping into a leadership role for Trahan. It’s organic.
“He’s a serving leader,” Robichaux said. “A lot of people have leadership backwards, they try to get people to serve them. That’s not what Blake Trahan does. He serves the team, he serves the community.”
That mentality hasn’t changed even as Trahan has blossomed into a star.
“That’s the thing about him, he’s the total package,” Robichaux said. “A lot of times your best player is not always the most respected guy in the locker room, … but that guy played on a team last year full of very good players, draft choices.
“He was only a sophomore and those guys respected him.”
Included in that tally is Girouard, a fifth-year senior who said he looks up to Trahan despite being nearly two years his elder.
It’s not necessarily because Trahan is such a good player, though that certainly helps. It’s simpler than that.
“He’s that guy who you can count on,” Girouard said.