CEDAR RAPIDS — He whips out his cellphone and shows you a bunch of photos. It’s surprising he still has them, let alone is eager to share.
Blayne Enlow was a sophomore-to-be in high school and passenger in a vehicle one of his friends was driving three years ago. That vehicle turned when it shouldn’t have, into an oncoming car, and was t-boned.
Enlow caught the brunt of the impact.
“I was knocked out,” the Cedar Rapids Kernels pitcher said. “I woke up and called my mom from the car. I don’t remember it. You’ll have to ask her what I said.”
“It was from a number I didn’t know, not his phone, so I didn’t answer it the first time,” said Traci Enlow, “But it rang again, so I answered it, and it was him. He just said ‘Mom, I’m OK. We’ve been in a wreck. It’s kind of bad. You need to come.’”
Blayne wasn’t OK, as it turned out. He suffered a broken ankle and pelvis, yet survived the crash.
Perhaps the photos of the accident are a daily reminder to Enlow of that fortune. Perhaps they are a daily reminder how much he has overcome to get here.
‘Here’ is a top-10 prospect in the Minnesota Twins organization, a 19-year-old right-hander who signed for $2 million as a third-round pick in last year’s MLB Draft. He is living his dream.
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“It just really showed me not to take the game for granted,” said Enlow, an engaging kid from St. Amant, La., about 25 miles southeast of Baton Rouge. “The doctors told me ‘You’ll probably never be at the potential you were.’ A lot of negative feedback coming from a lot of people. Then being in a wheelchair for eight weeks was just brutal to me. You can’t do anything. You’re wishing you could play the game or just even walk. When I got back (to playing), I was, like, 6-foot-3 and 130 pounds. Just a little beanpole.”
Enlow shows you a photo of being in a wheelchair, too. Perhaps that’s a daily reminder to keep grinding.
He made two starts in April for the Kernels, was put on the disabled list with a bad back but activated Saturday and expected to start against West Michigan.
“The sky’s the limit for him,” said Kernels Manager Toby Gardenhire. “I think he’s going to be a big-league pitcher. He’s got really good stuff, a good fastball, has one of the best breaking balls in our organization. His mentality, I think, is what makes him as good of a prospect as he is. He wants the ball, he’s a gamer, he knows what he’s doing, doesn’t back down from anything.”
Including the significant challenge to return to fulfilling his pitching promise. After finally getting out of a wheelchair, Enlow rehabbed, added strength and much-needed weight.
He returned to pitch for Team USA’s 18U team as a senior, landing squarely on the radar of major league scouts.
“He was just very determined,” Traci Enlow said. “He was dead set on playing ball. That was his dream.”
“One of my strength coaches came up to me and said ‘If you really want to get back, you need to be working out a lot,’” Enlow said. “That’s when I remember (starting to get) really dedicated. My mindset was right there. In high school, I just worked my way up until I finally came back to it. A minor setback for a major comeback.”
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Enlow’s trials and tribulations resurfaced right before last June’s draft. He’d been throwing into the mid-90s with his fastball during his high school season, but that velo dropped, concerning scouts and teams.
Rated as perhaps a first-rounder at one point, Enlow slid to the third round, where the Twins swooped in and signed him away from a commitment to nearby LSU with a well-above-slot bonus.
He always dreamed of pitching for LSU in the College World Series, but it was impossible to turn down the life-changing money Minnesota offered.
Enlow’s velocity came back after he signed and began pitching for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Twins last summer. His curveball is considered a potential plus pitch in the big league.
He did well enough this spring training to get the big jump to the Midwest League.
“I’m really blessed to say I’m with the Twins, because I love everything about the organization,” Enlow said. “I think everything went the right way (with the draft). Went the way it was supposed to go. God works in mysterious ways. If I had gone to another team, I would never have met the good friends I have now.”
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