TEXAS LEAGUE BASEBALL: Blanco credits consistent improvement to earn All-Star nod

MIDLAND While outfielder Dairon Blanco is in just his second season of professional baseball, he’s quickly established himself as an impact player for the Midland RockHounds.

After playing 82 games at Advanced-A Stockton last year, the 26-year-old from Florida, Cuba, has progressed to the point of being selected to start for the South Division in Tuesday’s Texas League All-Star Game at Tulsa.

Blanco spent four seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional before defecting to the Dominican Republic with the goal of pursuing a Major League career. The move cost him almost two full seasons of playing time before he signed as a free agent with Oakland on Dec. 19, 2017.

Speaking through interpreter Edgar Morales at last week’s RockHounds All-Star Luncheon, Blanco said his all-star selection was something of a surprise.

“He wasn’t expecting it, but he says he’s real grateful,” Morales said for Blanco. “He’s excited and her thanks God and everybody for supporting him. He’s been out there giving it everything he’s got and he’s excited.”

In the first half of the Texas League season, Blanco batted .284 with seven home runs and 39 RBIs. Blanco’s combination of power and speed also produced seven triples. He finished the first half sharing the team lead in homers and was second in RBIs and triples. Defensively, he has a .982 fielding percentage with 104 putouts and five assists.

“The numbers speak for themselves with him,” RockHounds manager Scott Steinmann said of Blanco. “I actually see him getting better and better each day, whether it’s in the outfield, on the bases or at the plate. He’s climbed into our (cleanup spot) and done a great job with the power and the speed.”

Blanco said maintaining a consistent routine has been a big key this season.

“He says every day is the same for him from the beginning of the season,” Morales said. “He gives it 100 percent at defense, at hitting. He says everything that that he does, he comes in prepared to help the team win in whatever situation it is.”

In addition to earning his spot within the organization, Blanco has continued to deal with the cultural transition of playing in the United States.

“He says it’s been an emotional ride,” Morales said. “He says him and his teammates get a long real good, which is good for him. It helps him play better. He said to make it to the playoffs would be a good memory for him.”

>> Follow Sam Waller on Twitter at @OA_Waller