October 21, 2012

Chris Whitfield: Pro players are shining on big stage


— Mitchell Boggs and Blake Adams have both gone on to have successful and lucrative professional careers, and both are seemingly hitting their stride at the same time this year.

Boggs has been a hometown boy since the time he was thrilling the fans and guiding the Dalton Catamounts on a state title run as the quarterback on the gridiron at Harmon Field. Even before then, he was striking out opposing hitters in recreation and all-star play, and he was probably even hitting jumpers. I’m not sure since I never saw him play as a youngster here in Dalton, but he just has that athletic look of a kid that could pick up any ball and be a stud.

Since I have worked here in town, I have been fortunate enough to be able to meet with Boggs several times — whether it be for a true “sit down” here at the paper after St. Louis’ run to the World Series title last year or in quick post-game interviews during the regular season the past two summers as the Cardinals visited Atlanta. He’s a class guy who goes about his business, and this year he has certainly been taking care of business.

The 2011 baseball season was a satisfying and frustrating one for Boggs, who saw his team win the Series, but saw his role on that team more helter skelter than a “utility” player at the high school level who moves to a different position every time the coach makes a pitching change. He was a middle reliever, a save guy for a few games and even got sent back down to the minors to work as a starting pitcher during Tony La Russa’s last season with St. Louis.

One thing he talked about in the offseason was his hope for a more defined role with the Cardinals. When Mike Matheny took over the team with La Russa’s retirement, Boggs got what he wanted as his role as a setup man for closer Jason Motte was made clear. Boggs was Matheny’s staff workhorse, tying for third in the National League in appearances with 78 regular-season games played.

Most of those appearances were for a single inning, but 78 at the Major League level is a lot of up and down in the bullpen staying lose and getting ready for the call. In Boggs, Matheny found someone who was almost always ready to answer.

With the Cardinals heading into a Game 6 matchup with San Francisco tonight back on the West Coast, and with a return trip to the World Series on the line, Boggs has had his most productive and successful season in the bigs. During this postseason, he has made eight appearances with opposing hitters managing just a .192 batting averages. He has given up only one earned run and has struck out five in seven innings of work. Those numbers are on top of a regular season that saw him compile a 4-1 record with a 2.21 ERA. He finished with 58 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings pitched.

St. Louis is one win away from another trip to the Series, but if they make it this year, Boggs will be a bigger part of the reason why.

Bigger is definitely a good word for describing former Catamount golfer Blake Adams’ year on the golf course.

Since finishing tied for 10th at the 2010 AT&T Pebble Beach tournament and winning more than $135,000 in his fourth tournament on the PGA Tour, Adams has had a back-and-forth ride that is typical of a pro golfer. But this year, there have been highlights that have certainly shined brighter and on the biggest of stages.

Adams qualified for two majors this year — the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship — and had two of his best performances on those grand stages. At the Open, he tied for 21st a week after finishing tied for 19th at Jack Nicklasus’ own tournament, The Memorial. In the PGA, his tie for seventh gave him $226,000. Also, earlier this year at The Players Championship at the TPC Course at Sawgrass he finished tied for 12th and took home nearly $200,000. Not bad paydays for four days of work.

Adams isn’t around Dalton much anymore, moving to Eatonton during high school and now living in Emanuel County off of that winding road of Interstate 16 that runs from Macon to Savannah. But as the saying goes, “Once a Catamount, Always a Catamount.”

Both Boggs and Adams give the community a big reason to smile.



Chris Whitfield is a sports writer for The Daily Citizen. Write to him at chriswhitfield@daltoncitizen.com.