null Baseball It’s easy to understand how Charlie Blackmon could intimidate pitchers. Beyond the fact that he’s a career .305 hitter who won the 2017 batting title and set a record for RBIs in a season by a leadoff hitter with 104, he stands a solid 6-3 and 210 pounds at the plate, with long, stringy hair flowing out of his batting helmet and a thick, dark beard giving him the appearance of a lumberjack rather than a center fielder. But he wants you to know, you don’t have to be afraid. “[The look] suits the way I like to play the game,” Blackmon said. “I’m kind of a big guy, have a lot of facial hair. I guess it could be taken as intimidating, if you didn’t know me. But I’m certainly not that way in my day-to-day, walking around.”MORE: SN's Power Rankings for April Whether his shaggy appearance has any effect on his opponents, one thing that is certain is that his overall persona, including the tenacity with which he plays the game on the field, has made him a fan favorite in Colorado and has shed light on a side of Blackmon known as “Chuck Nazty.”Who is Chuck Nazty and where did he come from, exactly? It’s hard to say, but to hear Blackmon tell it, Chuck is nothing more than a fun-loving guy on social media.“He’s just this crazy guy they let onto Twitter and Instagram. I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s an alter-ego, it’s more of me just having fun,” Blackmon said. “I don’t want Chuck Nazty to be boring, so I try to put entertaining things on social media. Nobody cares what I ate. Nobody cares about a selfie. I’m not taking any selfies.”A quick search through his Twitter account (@Chuck_Nazty) confirms this, as his feed is full of light-hearted and humorous tweets, pictures and, most recently, a side-by-side comparison video of his and fellow Denver-based athlete Vonn Miller’s dance moves.After signing a six-year, $108 million extension with the Rockies in early April, Blackmon certainly has the job security and resources to indulge Chuck Nazty, but it wasn’t always that way. Not lon
g ago, the course-looking Dallas native was a clean-shaven rookie, trying to hit his way into a permanent spot on the big-league roster with the Rockies after quickly rising through the minors. His success, and the quirky and carefree way by which it appears to come, could lead one to assume stardom was a foregone conclusion. But Blackmon maintains that was definitely not the case.“Where my skills were, and where they needed to be to be a good Major League Baseball player, or at least a guy who could stay in the big leagues, were miles apart,” Blackmon said of the period when he was first called up to the Rockies. “So, I had to figure out how I was going to make that jump.”That’s when Chuck Nazty takes a backseat and Charlie Blackmon takes the wheel. While Chuck is the fun-loving goofball who never takes anything too seriously, Charlie is the hard-working, dedicated and self-described “realist” who puts in the work that has taken him to the pinnacle of the sport he loves. However, that he even picked up a baseball bat in the first place is incredible.MORE: The Orioles should aggressively shop Manny MachadoBlackmon began his career at Division II Young Harris College in northeast Georgia as a highly touted left-handed pitcher. He was drafted out of high school in 2004 by the Marlins, and again in 2005 by the Red Sox. Instead of signing to play professionally, Blackmon honored his commitment and pitched two successful seasons for the Mountain Lions. He then transferred to ACC power Georgia Tech, where he found himself on the bench during his first year in Atlanta. That summer, while pitching sparingly for former big leaguer Rusty Greer and the Colleyville LoneStars in the Texas Collegiate League, Blackmon came up with a rather crazy idea to get on the field: He was going to ask to hit. In a move that would change the course of Blackmon’s career, Greer decided to give him a shot. The decision paid off, as Blackmon impressed his summer coaches with his ability at the plate — to the point that Greer felt compelled to alert Georgia Tech to the possible power-hitting pitcher they had on their bench.“Rusty called me in July and said he thought I should give Charlie a chance to hit when we came back for fall workouts. I said if [Greer] thought [Charlie] could hit, then I’d give him a chance in the fall,” Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall said. “After a couple workouts, it was obvious he had a good swing.”Blackmon performed well enough that fall to earn the starting spot in center field the following spring and turned in a phenomenal senior campaign, batting .396 with eight home runs, 45 RBIs and 25 stolen bases, earning him Second Team All-ACC honors. Though Blackmon had only played one full season as an outfielder, the Rockies saw enough to take him in the second round of the 2008 draft. And that, Blackmon said, was when the real work began.“I showed up the first couple of weeks [in the minors] and wasn’t very good. I couldn’t figure out the whole wooden bat thing,” he joked. Though he can laugh about it now, the experience of struggling right out of the gate in the pro ranks taught Blackmon a valuable lesson and helped him set up a mental blueprint for success.“At every level of baseball, there’s an adjustment period. You move up a level [in the minors] and you’re immediately the worst player in the league and you have to figure out how to tread water for a little bit while you learn how to make adjustments,” Blackmon said. “Then you have a little bit of success and then have to figure out how to make that success consistent. And if you can do that, then you’re considered a good player wherever you are.”MORE: The Shohei Ohtani experience will only get bigger, betterThat he was able to reduce the process of ascending through the minor leagues into a simple step-by-step formula should come as no surprise to those who know him. After all, Blackmon is an intelligent and cerebral individual. In high school, he was awarded Academic Player of the Year three times, was on the Dean’s List at Georgia Tech, where he graduated with a degree in Business Management, and was named to ESPN’s Academic All American team in 2008. Blackmon even undertook an internship at a wealth management firm in Atlanta during the offseason when he was in the minors.“I knew going into [professional baseball] that there was a 7 percent chance, even after getting drafted high, that I would make it to the big leagues and an even lower percent chance that I’d be able to make a career out of it,” he said. “I’m not an idiot. I knew I needed to be prepared for life when, and if, [baseball] didn’t work out. At the same time, though, I was still 100 percent committed to baseball.”The Rockies are happy with both Charlie and Chuck. Chuck has the ability to keep the clubhouse loose with his antics and Charlie has the ability to keep the Rockies in the win column with his play. It’s the best of two very different worlds. But Blackmon’s kindness and sincerity to those around him are things that both sides of the center fielder seem to have in common.“He is a little unique personality-wise, but he’s also one of the most genuine, humble and caring people you will find,” Hall said.That sentiment is not limited to coaches and teammates he played with for years. Even people who have known him in passing, or played with him briefly, speak highly of him.“After he made it to the big leagues, when we’d see each other in spring training, he’d always go out of his way to say hi to me and ask how I was doing,” said former minor-leaguer pitcher Dan Houston, who was Blackmon’s teammate for a few weeks in Triple-A. “He didn’t have to do that. I think it just demonstrates the kind of guy he is.”Chuck Nazty will continue to hang out and drive the fabled 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee that he received as a high school graduation present from his parents, occasionally running out of gas on the highway. Charlie Blackmon will continue to train and work hard to produce at a high level at the plate for the Rockies. The two sides complement each other perfectly, making the other that much stronger.As long as that dynamic is in place, it spells trouble for dance floors and National League pitchers alike.