PEACHTREE CORNERS — As is the case in a lot of other high school sports, when a player breaks into a high school baseball team’s starting lineup as a freshman, it can bring a lot of pressure on said freshman to produce, particularly in a program with as much of a winning history like Wesleyan.
Now imagine if that freshman happens to be the son of a former major league player.
That is exactly the situation not just one, but two Wesleyan freshmen have had to deal with during the 2019 season.
And with the Wolves (26-7) set to travel to Savannah Christian for a best-of-three Class A (Private) semifinal series beginning Tuesday, Druw Jones and Cooper Blauser have dealt with the pressure and expectations that come — fair or not — from being the sons of former Atlanta Braves All-Stars Andruw Jones and Jeff Blauser quite nicely.
Indeed, both have demonstrated from their first day with the team that they were up to not only holding their own on the varsity team, but thriving.
“Their poise and their composure is well beyond their years,” Wesleyan coach Brian Krehmeyer said of the two Braves progenies. “They certainly do not act or respond the way typical freshmen would. So this isn’t new to them, who their dads are and the attention they get because of those last names.They’ve been growing up with that.
“Cooper started playing in our middle school program, so I was able to see him develop as a seventh grader and eighth grader. Druw played with an outside organization, even though he was a student here. So I really hadn’t laid eyes on him as a baseball player until he showed up in between basketball practices (during preseason workouts). He would come out and ask to hit batting practices.
“From the moment both of those guys stepped on the field (this season), it was pretty clear they were going to be varsity baseball players.”
Krehmeyer’s first look at Jones was delayed even further. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound outfielder practiced with the Wolves only sporadically, and didn’t play with them until 10 games into the season, while participating in the Wesleyan boys basketball team’s run to the second round of the state tournament.
However, he has more than made up for lost time, leading the Wolves in batting average (.479), home runs (6) and OPS (1.277) and tying for the team lead with 37 RBIs.
Meanwhile, Blauser shares the team RBI lead with Jones and is tied with him for second on the team with 34 total hits and has added a .352 average, two homers and a .967 OPS.
Given that production, the fact they’re both freshmen and their respective family legacies in baseball, it seems natural the pair should by linked together in the eyes of observers both inside and outside the Wesleyan program.
In fact, the duo does share a bound, though it goes beyond even all three of the other criteria.
“It’s always kind of been a competition between me and him. It makes us better,” Blauser said. “I’ve know him for 10 (or) 11 years, and he’s always been one of my best friends. It just makes us better. We started on varsity (this year) together. We work hard together.”
A strong work ethic is something both Blauser and Jones say has been instilled in them by their fathers for as long as they can remember.
It is something that has driven each as they try to forge their own reputations in baseball beyond being the sons of former major league all-stars.
After all, it is natural for opponents to want to test both of them given their famous last names, though Jones says he has tried hard to take such tests in stride.
“(It does get tiring) a little bit, but I work hard every day, so it doesn’t really affect me that much,” Jones said of the natural comparisons to his father. “I’ve got a target on my back every game, but I just keep working hard every day and just focus on that.”
Still, it’s hard to ignore the similarities between both Jones and Blauser to their fathers.
The resemblance between Jones and his dad is particularly striking, not only with his swing and raw power at the plate and speed on the basepaths, but with the way he glides seemingly effortlessly after fly balls and line drives to cover an enormous amount of ground out in center field.
However, he says the most important lessons he’s learned from his father didn’t have much to do with hitting or fielding mechanics.
“He tells me every day to keep my head up,” Jones said. “Don’t get too mad about things you can’t control. Some times emotions are high and you get disappointed in yourself. You’ve just got to keep working, keep getting after it, keep working hard. It’s always the next play with baseball.”
The situation with Blauser is a little different since he doesn’t play the same position that his father did during his career on a regular basis.
In fact, the versatility the 6-0, 180-pounder has shown — he has played just about every position for the Wolves except for pitcher and catcher — has not only carved out his own niche on the team, but has made him a particularly valuable asset.
“I’m open to learn any (position),” Blauser said. “I think I’ve played everywhere but … pitcher, but I just try to stay open with my options. Coach Krehmeyer likes to put me everywhere. It’s valuable experience.”
That experience will only serve both Blauser and Jones well in the future as they mature, though as bright as the future is, they’ve already proven themselves to be a force in the present.
And Blauser admits he’s a little surprised at how quickly he and Jones have been able to mesh with a solid group of older players and have such a large impact on the team.
“Now that we’re up on varsity and we’re playing together, … we’re just trying to do the best we can,” Blauser said. “We can’t do too much because we’ve got a good group of seniors. … I think we knew we had a chance at (significant) playing time. We maybe didn’t know we’d have this much of an impact, but we knew we could help.”