It’s been a while since Blake Rutherford was in a classroom. Four years ago at Chaminade College Prep in West Hills, Cali. But this offseason, the White Sox prospect was essentially back in school, getting an advanced degree in baseball from some of the best hitters in the major leagues.
Rutherford hit and worked out in Southern California with Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun, Mike Moustakas, Tyler Saladino and Trevor Plouffe. Together, they’ve combined for two MVPs, nine All-Star appearances and so much knowledge about the game, it was like going to baseball college.
“I was very fortunate,” Rutherford said in an interview on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “Not only working out with them, but going to the cage with them and throwing with them, doing drills, just watching how they go about their business. I feel like it made me a better baseball player just seeing the work ethic and what it takes to get to where they’re at and to maintain the success they do at their level.”
The 21-year-old outfielder who hit .293/.345/.436 with 25 doubles and 15 steals in 115 games last season for Class-A Winston Salem hooked up with the group of four Milwaukee Brewers and one Philadelphia Phillie (Plouffe) thanks to his friendship with Yelich, the reigning NL MVP. Both of their brothers used to play baseball when they were teenagers. Their families are close. Rutherford thinks of Yelich as an additional big brother who frequently checks up on him.
“He’s always looking out for me. He calls me during the season. Always checks in to see how I’m doing,” Rutherford said about Yelich. “He makes sure I’m not being too hard on myself. Just talking through the game. He’s always been there for me, even in the offseason, but more so during the season just to make sure things are going good. He’s obviously been through the minor league grind, so he knows it gets hard at times. He’s been a mentor and someone I’ve been really thankful to be able to know and be able to work with.”
Before playing in his first spring training game, Rutherford looked at his phone and saw a text. Who was it from? Yelich.
“He just asked how I was doing,” Rutherford explained. “I was a little anxious with it being my first big league camp. I was a little nervous just going in, but he said just take it all in and learn from all these great players that I’m surrounded by and all these great coaches. That’s what I’ve been really doing. Just learning and sitting back, not really talking that much and just listening to what goes on and what it takes to be a professional baseball player.”
That was also the lesson plan during Rutherford’s workouts with this special group of veterans.
“I absorbed a lot of information,” he said. “I don’t know anywhere close to the amount of information those guys know. They’ve been in the game way longer and they’ve had way more success at the highest level, so I just sit back and watch and take in everything that they say, and if there’s something that I feel that I can implement into my game, then I try to do that, but when I do have a question, they’re more than open to answering. So I just bounce ideas off them. I’m just very fortunate to be surrounded by that caliber of players at such a young time in my career.”
Saladino, the former White Sox infielder, was impressed by what he saw from the young Rutherford.
“Blake is a good kid whose work ethic stood out this offseason," Saladino said. "He doesn’t brag. He just puts in the work and it shows. He made tough workouts look pretty easy. I’m really excited for him this year."
Rutherford also spoke about adding muscle this offseason, where he fits in the logjam of White Sox top outfield prospects, what he orders at In-N-Out Burger and much more on the White Sox Talk Podcast. Give it a listen!