By Dennis Garcia
LEXINGTON, KY. – The new baseball season sure didn’t start the way Transylvania University’s Trent Youngblood had hoped.Coming off a freshman season in which he garnered all kinds of team, conference and regional accolades, the Pioneers dropped their first three games of the season.
After hitting .422 as a freshman, Youngblood had just two hits in his first 14 official trips to the plate for a .142 average. His team had been outscored 28-11 in losses to Hope, Depauw and Webster and Youngblood was scratching his head.
So the 5-10, 160-pound sophomore from Louisville, who will be a member of the Asheboro ZooKeepers this upcoming Coastal Plain League season, went back to the past in hopes of having a better future.
“It got in my head a little, so I reached out to some guys from last year’s team and they said some things that put me in a better place,” Youngblood said. “These were guys who graduated last year like Chastain (Hudson) and he said some things to help me relax and be more confident. That helped and I have been more comfortable at the plate.”
The numbers show just that. Entering action this weekend at Dennison, Youngblood was hitting a sizzling .443 (27-for-61) with 17 runs scored 7 doubles, 2 triples 4 home runs and 14 RBIs. He has an on-base percentage of .477 and has stolen 5 bases in 6 attempts.
“I was able to learn a lot from upperclassmen, a lot from leaders who showed me the right way and from coaches who changed my approach on how to play the game,” Youngblood said. “I am very thankful for them.”
Youngblood is certainly thankful for a situation he had to fight through after arriving at Transylvania University for his freshman season. It was something that could have turned out far worse.
It was Oct. 22, 2020 and Youngblood was in the midst of taking his finals. Sleeping on the highest level of a set of bunk beds in his room, Youngblood was awakened by the sound of his alarm from his telephone located on top of a desk on the ground.
“The alarm went off and I went down to reach for it and lost my footing,” Yougblood said. “There’s a privacy wall in between my roommate’s bed and I braced myself on the wall, but realized I wasn’t going to be able to hold myself up. My roommate was just waking up and I told him I think I’m going to fall.”
Youngblood fell about five-to-six feet straight to the carpeted floor, where he landed on his head.
“I was a little dizzy, maybe had a minor concussion, but didn’t feel terrible,” he said. “It was stiff, but there wasn’t too much pain. Then walking to class, moving it around, it felt pretty stiff but there wasn’t any excruciating pain.”
Youngblood proceeded to his two finals, one in economy and one in Spanish, acing both, and because he had already had an electrocardiogram (EKG) scheduled due to a bout with Covid, he decided to get his neck checked out at that time.
He drove himself to the hospital, where his EKG was fine, but his neck wasn’t. Youngblood had fractured his C6 and damaged ligaments. He had been walking around, driving and taking his finals with a broken neck.
“I was completely shocked, I didn’t think there would be an injury,” he said. “There wasn’t that much pain. I kept thinking about the words the doctor said and no words came to my head. I did ask him if I could do any baseball stuff and he said no and that I was very lucky. ”
Youngblood was forced to wear a neck brace for the next three months, 24 hours a day. He was to halt all physical activity.
“When I think about it, I still am in disbelief,” Youngblood said. “When you think about a broken neck, it’s not common, it’s scary.”
For three months, Youngblood said he could do very little, except hope that he would be able to resume baseball activities once the brace came off. The time to remove the brace finally arrived around Christmas time.
“There was a lot of scanning and imaging done to see how the bone had healed,” Youngblood said. “That went well and then came rehab therapy for a month and a half.”
There were only a couple of weeks before Youngblood was going to start his freshman season on the diamond. He started preparing for the season at a very slow rate, taking a few light swings and progressing from there. As expected, there was a lot of apprehension from all.
“Thinking about doing swing motion where your head whips around, it had me hesitant and scared,” Youngblood said. “The coaches were scared, too.”
Fortunately, things went well.
“I am so thankful for all our trainers,” Youngblood said. “I haven’t had any pain, nothing major at all.”
But Youngblood has been a major pain to opposing pitchers ever since his freshman season. That year, he hit .422 with 76 hits. Those numbers were second best in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, which earned him All-HCAC First Team honors, D3baseball.com All-Midwest Third-Team honors and he was a member of the ABCA/Rawlings All-Region Second Team. He was second in the HCAC and first on the team with 61 runs scored, third in the HCAC and first on the team with 104 total bases and five triples and he led the team in on-base percentage (.498), slugging percentage (.578) and steals (17). He recorded five hits in a game against Bluffton and knocked in six runs in one game against Illinois College.
“I didn’t know what my role was going to be as a freshman, I can’t say I expected to play,” said Youngblood, who came in as an infielder but was switched to the outfield.
As a sophomore, he has taken more of a leadership role and he certainly has let his play do the talking. The versatile Youngblood, who played in the Prospect League last summer, said he feels comfortable in both the infield and outfield and will play wherever the ZooKeepers need him.
“We are excited to have a guy coming in that can do so many things for us,” Asheboro head coach and General Manager Jeremy Knight said. “Obviously, he has the bat working, but he can be a steal threat anytime he’s on, and play just about any position on the field. Hopefully he can continue having success this spring and bring that success along with him over the summer.”
Youngblood said he is ready for another challenge.
“There is a difference in the level of competition,” Youngblood said of coming to the CPL from a D3 school. “I want to prove to myself that I can compete with them. I don’t want to be intimidated. I want to go out there and succeed.”
On the diamond and off, Youngblood has done nothing but succeed.