PEMBROKE — Due to an injured player this year, Bladen Strickland did what was best for the Purnell Swett and gave up playing second base to become the full-time catcher.
That selflessness is what the senior brings as he goes on to play in college at Southeastern Community College. On Wednesday he made it official as he had his signing ceremony in the school’s media center.
“I actually liked catching a little bit, that’s my secondary position,” Strickland said. “I would’ve loved to have been at second base, but I did what’s best for the team.
“It’s a dream come true to get to play college baseball.”
Strickland took the most of his chance this season after a knee injury to Lucas Oxendine, who split time at pitcher and catcher. Playing behind the plate the whole year, instead of just catching for Oxendine like he had in the past, Strickland settled into his role.
“It speaks a lot because he went behind the plate and did a good job for us,” Purnell Swett coach Bryan McDonald said. “I’m sure he missed the middle infield and at Southeastern you will see him more as a middle infielder than you will a catcher. Like we talk about all the time, he did what was best for the program.”
As a part of the senior class that saw the program collect the most wins in program history last season and won the conference title this year, Strickland hit .259 with 10 RBIs this year for the Rams.
“It makes me happy, I’m glad I ain’t done (playing baseball),” Strickland said. “It was a special group. We had played together since we were little.”
“He hit in the bottom of the order for us, but he gave a spark with the top of the order coming up,” McDonald said.”He will show some versatility as far as playing both sides of the bag and also can go behind the plate. He gives them some options with him.”
Southeastern went 11-31 this past season, and Strickland goes to a program that had three fellow Purnell Swett products on the roster this year in Cody Harris, Ironeyes Locklear and Jordan Swett. All three gave insight to Stirckland during the recruiting process.
Along with being close to home to go to school, Strickland also said the move works for him as a player as well
“They’re getting me for the middle infield,” Strickland said. “The field is nice and it’s real small so I can get around better.”
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.