Monday, October 29, 2012
By: Burt Wilson / Lancaster Newspapers, Inc.

Blake Gailen's incredible year got even better this week.

Gailen, who was Lancaster's left fielder this season, was voted his team's MVP by 'Stormers fans. He earned the Atlantic League MVP award after hitting a league-leading .338. And he was selected by Baseball America as the Independent Leagues Player of the Year.

Now, he has been rewarded for the accomplishments that resulted in the trio of MVP laurels. He has agreed to a deal with the Colorado Rockies.

"I'm excited about it," Gailen said by phone from his home in Woodland Hills, Calif. "I'm very grateful to have been put in the right position to A, win all three (of the MVP awards) and B, get signed."

Gailen, who was expecting the contract to arrive by email Monday or today, said the Rockies' assistant director of player development, Zach Wilson, told him that it is a Double-A deal, but that he could play anywhere from High-A to Triple-A.

"We're just very happy for him," Barnstormers manager Butch Hobson said. "He works hard. He's very intense. He plays the game the way it's supposed to be played. With the year he had and all the accolades he got, it's just very deserving for him to get signed. And hopefully we'll see him next year in Triple-A for the Rockies."

For Gailen, 2012 was the second straight season he won a batting title. He hit an eye-popping .406 for Lincoln in the American Association last year. In six minor league seasons, he is a career .340 hitter.

This year, he was a big part of the Barnstormers' record-setting season. In addition to his league-high batting average, he hit 22 home runs (fifth in the league) and had 89 RBIs (fourth in the league).

And Gailen's defense helped Lancaster's pitching staff lead the league in ERA for the first time. Time and again he would field a ball in the left-field corner and hold a runner to a single or throw him out trying to stretch a hit into a double.

"I've never had anybody who did that for me before," Hobson said, "and he did that very well."

Gailen, who played his college ball at UNLV, said he didn't get down when he didn't get the call from a major league organization earlier this season.

"I try not to think about all that stuff," he said. "None of that's in my control. The only thing within my control is my preparation and what I put out on the field.

"I understand how it works to a certain extent. I know there's always politics involved and that (because I'm only 5-9), I'm not always going to be the first guy a team looks for or wants. But again, that's something I can't really control.

"All I can do is be the most complete player and try to catch the eye of somebody and fortunately that happened this year."

Gailen had 26 doubles, three triples and stole 25 bases this season. Then he gave the Barnstormers a jump-start when the playoffs began.

He hit three homers and had nine RBIs in the first two postseason games to lead the Barnstormers to a three-game sweep of York and a trip to the finals.

"He does everything well," Hobson said. "He's not the biggest guy and they sometimes talk about a guy's size. But size is what's in your heart and what you feel you can do. And he's one of those special people that plays from his heart, (physical) stature doesn't mean anything for him."

Gailen's just glad he was able to take advantage of the situation. "I'm grateful I had a chance to to play for the Barnstormers and for Butch," he said. "Butch gave me an opportunity and my teammates put me in a position to be successful. I wouldn't have gotten a chance (for an affiliated deal) without that."

And Hobson has no doubt Gailen will succeed.

"The guy's a ballplayer in all aspects of the game," Hobson said. "He gets the most out of everything he's got. And I think he's going to do great."

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