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Blake Gailen picks up independent baseball honor

Former Glendale Community College standout named Independent Leagues Player of the Year by Baseball America.

November 21, 2012|By Charles Rich, charles.rich@latimes.com
  • ARCHIVE PHOTO: After Blake Gailen batted .338 with 22 home runs and 25 stolen bases for the Lancaster Barnstormers, he was named the 2012 Independent Leagues Player of the Year by Baseball America.
ARCHIVE PHOTO: After Blake Gailen batted .338 with 22… (Photo by Michael…)

After receiving a phone call in January from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim organization informing him he had been released, Blake Gailen immediately picked up the phone and began exploring other options to keep his career afloat.

The former Glendale Community College standout found a receptive organization a short time later in the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League. Gailen didn’t fathom that he would enjoy the best season of his professional career.

Gailen batted .338 with a career-best 22 home runs and 25 stolen bases and was tabbed the Independent Leagues Player of the Year by Baseball America. It’s led to him recently signing a double-A contract with the Colorado Rockies organization.

“It’s an incredible honor and something you wouldn’t expect to happen,” said Gailen, an outfielder and a former All-Western State Conference honoree at Glendale college. “After I hung up the phone talking to the Angels, I wanted to see what my alternatives were and Lancaster seemed to be the right fit.”

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Gailen, who played at Glendale from 2005-05 before graduating from UNLV in 2007, played about 30 games with the Arkansas Travelers, the double-A affiliate of the Angels, in 2011.

At Lancaster, under the direction of manager Butch Hobson, Gailen began to ascend. He started in left field in the All-Star Game in July and proved he could be a consistent force during both halves of the season.

“It’s such a long season and it didn’t start off well,” said Gailen, who pitched at Glendale. “I started to pick things up about a month into the season and then everything took off.

“I was never named player of the month, but I stayed consistent and it’s the best team I’ve ever played on. My swing just felt good for most of the year.”

Gailen collected 169 hits in 500 at-bats, to go along with 89 runs batted in and 94 runs. He had a .415 on-base percentage and finished with a .534 slugging percentage.

It had been a long process for Gailen, 27, prior to joining Lancaster. He joined the South Coast League in 2007 before playing for the Wichita Wingnuts of the American Assn. in 2008. Gailen was traded to the Yuma Scorpions of the Golden Baseball League in 2009, but found himself temporarily unemployed after the Colombian Baseball Federation purchased the league and stockpiled players from its native country.

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