Kent Blackstone assumed his baseball playing days were over. But the Marshall High School graduate was wrong.
Blackstone recently was contacted by the Great Britain team about getting ready to play for the squad that will be participating in a 12-team qualifying tournament this month in Regensburg, Germany, for the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Blackstone jumped at the chance and began baseball workouts in Arlington with some of his former minor-league Maryland Blue Crabs teammates, including Yorktown High graduate Jake Marshall, in preparation for the competition.
The qualifying tournament begins Sept. 16. Great Britain hopes to qualify for the World Baseball Classic, played March 9-21 in 2023. Blackstone previously played for Great Britain in last fall’s European championships in Italy.
“It’s an awesome experience and opportunity to have,” Blackstone said. “I’ve been spending the last few days getting back into baseball shape and back into the baseball flow. It’s been a pretty quick turnaround and a pretty easy transition so far.”
Blackstone, 28, is eligible to play for Great Britain because his mother, Alison Blackstone, was born in the United Kingdom. She successfully applied for citizenship along with her sons, Kent and Mitch, also a former Marshall High baseball standout. Kent Blackstone had hoped to play for Great Britain in the 2020 World Baseball Classic, but the event was canceled because of the pandemic.
At the upcoming qualifying tournament, Great Britain has to finish in the top two to move on to the World Baseball Classic. France, Spain, Germany, the Czech Republic and South Africa are in Great Britain’s bracket.
The speedy Blackstone will be a middle infielder for Great Britain and bat at the top of the order.
“I think we have a chance to do well because we’ll have some pretty good arms and pitching,” Blackstone said.
Blackstone, who works for Toll Brothers, was a standout baseball player at Marshall, then played in college for Division I teams George Mason University and New Mexico State University. He was one of Mason’s leading base stealers and was among the top in the country in triples.
After college, Blackstone played a number of seasons for professional independent minor league teams, including most recently the Maryland Blue Crabs in Waldorf.
He walked away from baseball, he had figured, at the end of the 2021 season.
“I thought I was finished, and this will probably be it for sure,” Blackstone said. “The support from my employer allowing me to do this has been amazing.”
Blackstone plans to leave for Germany on Sept. 11, where he will participate in a mini-camp with other Great Britain players, where he hopes to face some quality pitching.
“One of the biggest challenges is not seeing any live pitching for about a year,” Blackstone said.