Outwork the opposition: the philosophy of USC catcher Blake Sabol

Hard work beats talent. This sentiment best summarizes USC sophomore catcher Blake Sabol’s attitude. Growing up, Sabol, like many other collegiate athletes, played multiple sports, competing in high school basketball and football alongside baseball. Despite his athletic diversity, Sabol knew from a young age that baseball was his sport.

Catcher Blake Sabol’s athleticism allows him to play nearly anywhere in the field. Daily Trojan file photo.

“You can’t just show up and be good at baseball,” Sabol said. “Whereas in football I was tall and fast so I was a pretty good wideout … it came easy to me.”

It’s no wonder that Sabol embraced baseball as his athletic passion. Hailing from Aliso Viejo, Calif., Sabol’s family members aren’t strangers to the baseball world. His father, Rob played collegiate ball at Long Beach State University, and his older brother, Stefan played at the University of Oregon before joining the New York Mets Organization in 2012.

With both his father and brother as mentors, the 6-foot-4 catcher learned the importance of dedication at a young age.

His father ensured that his three sons understood what it would take to become the best. Rob consistently went into work at 5 a.m. and wouldn’t get home until 5 p.m., but he always made time for his children.

“As soon as he got home he would pick me and my older brother up and we’d go down to the field and he’d work with us for an hour or two,” Sabol said. “He never complained once about having to wake up early or take us out there … He could’ve been another dad, where you just want to come home and just chill and watch football or something, but he always wanted us to do something greater with our lives and reach our dreams.”

From that point on, Blake recognized the amount of dedication it would take to reach his professional baseball aspirations. It was the extra work and long hours that has helped him earn the many honors to his name. In his senior season of high school, Sabol was rated the class of 2016’s 23rd best player in the nation by MaxPreps and played club baseball for the No. 1 CBA Marucci, according to Perfect Game. Furthermore, his accomplishments are not limited to North American baseball. In 2013, Sabol competed for Team USA in the Pan AM game where he won gold.

“Playing for Team USA was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had in my life,” Sabol said. “It’s playing for something bigger than yourself and not even just a baseball team, I was playing for the country.”

Sabol’s high school accomplishments opened up many doors for his post-high school athletic aspirations. With interest from schools including Stanford, Vanderbilt and USC, Sabol had no shortage of opportunities to pursue a D-I collegiate baseball career.

Since he first donned cardinal and gold for USC baseball, Sabol has found nothing but success. In his freshman season in 2017, he played in 40 out of 55 games, recording a .250 batting average and driving in 16 runs. Moreover, as a true freshman, he often took on the leadership responsibilities behind the plate. But perhaps Sabol’s true value comes from his athleticism and adaptability, which allows him to be effective in multiple positions. 

“One of the things he brings to the table is his athleticism, his versatility in that he can play in the outfield, he can play first, he can catch, he can DH, so there [are] a lot of opportunities for him,” head coach Dan Hubbs said.

A player of Sabol’s caliber is surely an asset to any baseball team, especially to a young USC team coming off a disappointing 2017 season. So far in his sophomore season, Sabol has proven his value, primarily taking reps in the lineup as a designated hitter and in the field as a catcher. Through the first 11 games of the 2018 season, he has accounted for a .275 batting average (11 for 40), a .356 on base percentage and 6 runs batted in.

Sabol and the rest of the Trojans baseball team have found success early in 2018, tallying an 8-3 record and an important win to prove themselves over a No. 5-ranked Arkansas program last Saturday. This weekend, the Trojans will welcome a trio of baseball powerhouses — No. 8 TCU, No. 15 Vanderbilt and No. 11 UCLA — in the Dodger Stadium Baseball Classic.

“I think we proved this last weekend that we can play with anybody in the country,” Sabol said. “We were three outs from taking the series, but I think our guys aren’t content with that … If you look at our outfield wall, we are the ones with 12 National Championships under our belt. We’re still the top of the college baseball game and we are trying to get USC back up to where we belong.”

There is still a lot of the season left to be played, and Sabol and the Trojans are committed to making the most of their remaining games with the same hard working mentality and dedication Blake learned from his father.