Blanch is the heart and soul of the Kenmore East baseball team
One of the most accomplished basketball players ever at Kenmore East, Blanch, a senior, is making a major impact in his
first season of varsity baseball.
“When basketball ended I realized how much those high school games meant to me,” Blanch said. “I’ve talked to people, like (varsity basketball coach) Mr. (Jay) Robbins who played D-I football and talked to people who played D-III football and they say nothing is better than high school sports.”
Blanch, who hadn’t played in the Bulldogs baseball program since eighth grade, was inspired to return because he wanted to close out his scholastic career playing with longtime friend and former little league teammate Donnie Battista.
Though a shoulder injury kept Battista out of the lineup, PJ has proven to be the heart and soul of this young Bulldogs team.
“PJ is the ultimate gamer,” Ken-East baseball coach Les Simon said. “He’s one of the best all-around athletes that I’ve seen during my time here at Kenmore East.”
There’s no doubt that PJ is one of the most intense athletes to ever come out of Western New York.
But not nearly enough people see Blanch’s supportive side. Last year when a close friend was going through a tough stretch it was a heart-to-heart talk with Blanch that helped him focused on school and basketball.
When his dad Jack Blanch, who was in his final season coaching the Lady Bulldogs, asked PJ to work with freshman guard Erin O’Brien. PJ didn’t hesitate for one second to say yes.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” O’Brien said. “But he just introduced himself, said hi I’m PJ.”
Saying how PJ helped her with ball handling skills O’Brien said she’ll never forget how nice PJ was to her.
That’s what the real PJ Blanch is all about.
Far too many people have based their opinions of Blanch based on rumor or second information.
That, perhaps more than anything, is what mystifies PJ the most. It’s not that Blanch feels misunderstood.
It’s more a case of feeling that most people confuse his desire to win for being a poor sport. And that they don’t know the person behind the athlete.
“I’ve been able to see in myself a change in my maturity level especially from last year to this year,” he said. “It stinks for me because I hate the fact that people see it that way. I am still a 17, 18-year-old kid. I realize the mistakes I made and the things that I did do that I shouldn’t have done. But I hate the fact that, that’s held against me in certain ways. Especially by people that don’t know me. People that know me realize that I’m super competitive. I have been my whole life in (every) sport no matter what it is. And that’s really all that it’s been. It’s not that I’m a ‘poor’ sport. I just hate to lose more than anything. It’s hard to explain but I hate too lose almost more than I love to win.”
Growing up is about trial and error. The fact that Blanch looked in the mirror and saw his errors speaks to his character.
Blanch is looking forward to playing basketball at Pitt-Bradford where he will major in criminal justice as he works towards becoming a state trooper.
Ending his career fourth on the Bulldogs all-time scoring chart, PJ also set the single-game mark of 39 points on two occasions during his senior year. Not wrapped up in his numbers Blanch, who was shockingly left off of the All-WNY teams, felt those numbers made a statement on how hard he worked during his career.
“I think it just showed how hard I really did work the past three years at that school,” he said. “It didn’t show in All-WNY or whatever, but I think it shows how hard I really did try.”
Blanch also reflected on how magical high school has been. The thrill of playing a game and knowing class mates are there supporting him. Or returning the favor when he watched friends play.
Playing East-West games with guys like Dante Bono, who he talks to on a weekly basis, and the mutual respect they had for Martin Bailey, Marcus Lobdell and Ryan Grandits of West will always stand out a great memories.
“I don’t think there will ever be anything in my life sports-wise that will top those (games),” Blanch said.”Throughout all my years that I’ve played those are by far the best memories I’ve ever had. Especially my team last year, that’s the closest I’ve ever been with anyone.”