When longtime New Mexico State baseball coach Rocky Ward and his staff were swiftly dismissed in May following a season that did not live up to lofty expectations, sophomore shortstop Kent Blackstone had a decision to make.
After two productive seasons in Las Cruces, the 2012 Marshall All-Met could stick with the Aggies and adapt to whatever the incoming coaching staff would bring. But Blackstone could count on one hand the number of series his parents had been able to attend, making the long journey from Vienna.
With the coaching staff changes, Blackstone could freely transfer without losing a year of eligibility, and schools closer to home took notice. Virginia Commonwealth, Penn State, High Point and Old Dominion all showed interest, but last week Blackstone chose George Mason.
The move offers his parents the opportunity to see more of their son, and Blackstone will play for fellow Marshall graduate Bill Brown, the Patriots skipper.
“I’m definitely excited to come home, it was too much uncertainty for me there,” Blackstone said. “I feel like I have a great support system here. I lot of kids I played high school with will be here. It will be awesome.”
Blackstone brings 98 games — including 89 starts — of Division I experience to a Patriots program that went 34-22 last season. George Mason won the Atlantic 10 championship and lost to Texas A&M in the Houston regional.
The Patriots bring back their starting shortstop for the 2014-2015 season, but graduated a majority of their infield. Blackstone says he would be comfortable shifting spots on the infield dirt.
“I’m open to go with anything even if my defensive skills aren’t used at short,” Blackstone said. “I know the coaches will put the best defense out there possible.”
As a sophomore last season, he hit .251 with seven doubles, two triples, two home runs and 17 RBI. He also was a baserunning threat for New Mexico State with a team-high 11 stolen bases.
With two years of high level college baseball under his belt, Blackstone said the transition to George Mason should be a lot more seamless than his jump from Marshall to New Mexico State.
“As most transfers go, they leave for not getting playing time or they don’t like the school. That’s not my case,” Blackstone said. “I feel like I can make an instant impact. I’m experienced and I know the day to day operations of Division I baseball.”
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