Blane Abeyta’s baseball journey changed drastically this past week.
The 2017 Ceres High School grad/University of Reno, Nevada junior right-handed pitcher signed with the New York Yankees as an undrafted free agent on June 20.
Terms weren’t disclosed but the most any undrafted player can sign for is $20,000.
“It’s something I couldn’t pass up on,” said Abeyta, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 195 pounds. “It’s not about the money. I’m doing this for my grandpa.”
It was a memorable two days for Abeyta and his family.
But one person was missing. Gilbert, Abeyta’s grandfather and No. 1 fan, passed away in January of 2019.
“I’m living a dream right now. Honestly, it doesn’t feel real. My grandpa would definitely be happy.”Blane Abeyta
“I’m living a dream right now,” Abeyta said. “Honestly, it doesn’t feel real. My grandpa would definitely be happy. He’s the one I’m playing the game for. I have the day he passed away on my glove in Roman numerals. I know he’s watching down.”
The Yankees expressed interest in signing Abeyta after Tyler Robertson watched him pitch on June 19 in Modesto.
Robertson also scouted Abeyta when he played for Nevada and Modesto Junior College.
“I threw around 30 pitches (at Grace Davis High School),” Abeyta said. “I wanted to show him I could locate and run the numbers up on the radar gun. The highest I got clocked was 94 miles per hour. I’ve developed a lot more pitches since Modesto Junior College. Now, my changeup is one of my top pitches.”
Robertson contacted Abeyta last Friday.
“I got the call while eating with my friends at In-N-Out in Modesto,” he said. “I went outside to talk. I came back in and all the guys were excited. We went to the mall and got a few (Yankees) hats.”
Abeyta just started pitching full-time a year and a half ago.
“I’ve been catching since I was 9 or 10,” he said.
A standout all-league catcher in high school, Abeyta switched positions during his second season with the Modesto Junior College baseball program.
He was named to the Big-8 Conference First Team as a sophomore.
Abeyta compiled a 5-4 record with 60 strikeouts and one save in 651/3 innings.
He led all Modesto JC pitchers in wins, strikeouts and innings pitched.
“I’m thankful for (coaches) Zeb Brayton, Nathan Gregory, Paul Chavez, Joe Peterson and John Combs,” Abeyta said. “All those guys were a huge help to me. They always believed in me.”
Abeyta also worked with Oakdale High School grad/former USC pitcher Austin Manning.
Manning was selected by the Kansas City Royals during the 2019 MLB Draft.
“I learned my curveball from him,” Abeyta said.
Abeyta earned a baseball scholarship to Nevada.
He posted a 3.38 ERA with 12 strikeouts and two saves during his lone season with the Wolf Pack this spring.
“I’m trying to show it doesn’t matter where you go to school,” Abeyta said. “If you work your butt off, you can make a name for yourself.”
Abeyta earned first-team all-Western Athletic Conference honors as a key member of Ceres High’s varsity baseball team in 2017.
He batted .404 from the plate with two homers, three doubles, 17 RBIs, 17 runs and four stolen bases for the second-place Bulldogs (12-3).
“The arm talent was always there,” Ceres High head coach Clinton Goblirsch said. “Working on his mechanics and developing his pitches has been able to get him to where he’s at. It’s impressive. I’m happy for him. I’m proud of him.”
Abeyta will move to Florida in the near future to begin his pro baseball career.
He’ll suit up for the Gulf Coast League Tampa Tarpons, a Class-A affiliate of the Yankees.
The start of the 2020 season will be delayed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m thankful the Yankees are giving me the opportunity and believe in me,” Abeyta said. “I’m looking forward to continuing this dream and making my way up the ranks. I’m going to go out and show I’m not a bust.”