DENVER -- Charlie Blackmon has heard the Ryan Spilborghs comparisons.
"(Spilborghs) was one of my favorite characters in baseball -- and still is -- there's no replacing Ryan Spilborghs in terms of the comic relief he provided," Blackmon told me last Sunday. "I'm honored to wear his number and am happy at least aspire to what he's been able to achieve on the Twittersphere ... as a fan favorite."
The similarities between Spilly and Chuck Nazty (his Twitter moniker) - who shared a clubhouse briefly in September 2011 when Blackmon made his MLB debut - go beyond sharing a number (19), a humorous social media presence, and excellent taste in walk-up music.
Both are outfielders that were homegrown by the Rockies that profiled a little more as 4th/5th outfielders, bouncing between AAA and MLB for several years. Blackmon hopes to emulate Spilborghs in eventually carving out a permanent role with the big league club.
Blackmon now has 286 MLB plate appearances split across three seasons, hitting .262/.293/.354 (AVG/OBP/SLG) in that time. That's a sharp contrast from his .309/.376/.467 line as a minor leaguer.
When asked about the largest difference between AAA and MLB, Blackmon replied that "It's mostly the atmosphere, getting comfortable playing with cameras and fans ... if you can be successful in dealing with those elements, if you're a successful AAA player you can be successful here. Having said that, the talent's much better here -- you're not going to get any of the pitches you got in AAA, you really have to be on top of your game."
I remarked that there are several Sky Sox hitting well over .300 this year who haven't been able to make the transition to MLB success. "It's hard to perform," Blackmon replied. "The greatest obstacle is getting used to this atmosphere with a completely new team, you're out of your routine...and the pitching is much better. Still you've got to just get as comfortable as you can and let your skills take over."
I pressed Blackmon further about his routine has been affected over the last few years, especially since he's bounced between being a regular in AAA and a MLB bench player.
"Playing sporadically (in MLB), getting a lot of pinch hits has been really valuable to me. If you're playing every day, you establish a routine and get used to it, but playing this way is something you really have to embrace because it is so challenging. If you can pinch-hit, I think you'll be fine."
I gave Charlie a hypothetical - Edwin Jackson (that day's starting pitcher) on the mound, 2-0 count, what are you looking for?
"I'm trying to slammer a fastball," Blackmon immediately rejoined -- and in that afternoon's game, he did slammer a Jackson fastball (on a 1-0 count) for a ground rule double in the first inning.
As I've done with most of the other players I've interviewed, I asked Blackmon what his favorite minor league stop was. He struggled to pick just one, but ultimately he went with AA Tulsa.
"We had a brand new stadium (in Tulsa) and I really enjoyed playing in those facilities."
Blackmon's a Georgia native that played his college ball at Georgia Tech, making one of several Rockies players with ties to the South. I asked him about any rivalries he has with other players in the clubhouse based on school affiliation.
"It's not football season yet, but I'm sure it'll get turned up a notch when we get there -- but being from the same area of the country we've got a bit of a brotherhood going on. We've all got something in common, growing up in the same area."
I mentioned the proliferation of baseball players who seem to be coming out of Georgia and Blackmon immediately brought up the fact that new Rockie Mitchell Boggs had gone to Tech's rival, the University of Georgia.
"I tried to be the bigger man," Blackmon said of interacting with a former sworn enemy and now teammate, "Went over and introduced myself, trying to be as friendly as possible even though he is a Bulldog."
I hope that Blackmon has to continue to be polite to his SEC rivals at the MLB level all season, because the Rockies need some more production out of those utility outfield roles, especially if an injury takes one of the starters out of play for an extended period of time.