Miami Marlins: Charles Leblanc’s journey to his MLB debut

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Miami Marlins third baseman Charles Leblanc (83) circles after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets at LoanDepot Park on Sunday, 31 July 2022 in Miami, Florida.

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Paul Leblanc is still on Cloud Nine.

It’s been just over a week since his son, infielder Charles Leblanc, made his MLB debut with the Miami Marlins on July 30. He recorded his first hit in MLB that night and hit his first home run the next day with more than a dozen family members and friends in the stands wearing No. 83 Leblanc jerseys that they had custom made when they arrived at LoanDepot Park.

Emotions were hard to contain.

“Every time I think about it, his first time on the court in Miami, it all comes back to his life flashing before my eyes,” Paul said in a phone interview Monday. “Let’s go back to when he was 2 years old in the garden and he started hitting balls. It was something else.

Leblanc has continued to produce since his debut.

The 26-year-old infielder from Laval, Que. — about 40 minutes from Montreal — has reached base safely in each of his first eight games with the Marlins. He’s hitting .444 (12 for 27) with four doubles, a home run, an RBI and four runs scored. He has multiple hits in four of eight games, including a three-hit performance on Sunday.

“I settled in,” Leblanc said.

And it gives the Marlins food for thought as they spend the final two months of the season, in part, evaluating the organization’s best young players to determine who could play a role in the club’s future.

Leblanc is not ranked among the Marlins’ top 30 prospects. The organization acquired him from the Texas Rangers with their first pick in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft in December.

But his early production in the big leagues as well as what he did before his debut — he was hitting .302 with 14 homers in Triple A Jacksonville before being called — is hard to deny.

“He’s a guy who has a really good game plan when he comes up and he sticks with it,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “I think that’s one of the things you see. He is calmer. He has a few ABs under his belt. He is not there to jump on everything. He has an idea of ​​what he wants to do and sticks to it and he is successful. He seems to be good at a lot of different things. He runs pretty well. He was pretty steady with his hands in the third. He can play in several positions.

“At this point,” Mattingly continued, “he hasn’t done anything that indicates he’s not a major league player.”

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Miami Marlins third baseman Charles Leblanc (83) drives to first base during the ninth inning of an MLB game against the Cincinnati Reds at LoanDepot Park in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Florida , Tuesday, August 2, 2022. Daniel A. Varela [email protected]

Getting to the big leagues has been Leblanc’s dream for quite some time. The goal really came to fruition in 2013 when he made the Canadian Junior National Team.

“Just that feeling of, ‘OK, you’re actually one of the best players in the country at your age,’ that’s when it clicked,” said Leblanc, the 22nd Canadian-born player to reach the major leagues. .

The Milwaukee Brewers drafted him in the 33rd round of the draft that year, five days after he turned 17. He turned down the offer and played two seasons at the University of Pittsburgh, winning the ACC sophomore batting title in 2016 when he hit a staggering .405 with 46 RBI and more walks (30 ) than strikeouts (29). The Rangers drafted him in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB Draft and he spent six years in their minor league system before joining the Marlins this offseason.

Leblanc said he thinks the 2021 season is a breakthrough year for him. He hit 17 home runs in 96 games for the Rangers’ Triple A affiliate after hitting just 22 total homers from 2016-19.

“My first year of breakout power,” Leblanc said.

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Miami Marlins third baseman Charles Leblanc (83) reacts after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets at LoanDepot Park on Sunday 31 July 2022 in Miami, Florida. David Santiago [email protected]

That success carried over into his first year with the Marlins and led to his MLB debut.

Leblanc said he didn’t feel the nerves, but noted that his heart was “pounding like crazy” during his first at bat.

But when Leblanc got his first hit — a double to right field against Carlos Carrasco of the New York Mets in the eighth inning of his July 30 debut — he said the only thought that crossed his mind was to whether he should try a triple. He hit a 395-foot home run to left field the next day against Taijuan Walker and pointed his family in the stands as he rounded the bases.

“It’s definitely special,” said Leblanc.

From the stands, the family could only reflect and absorb the moment. Leblanc’s parents, sister, grandmother, fiancée and fiancée’s family were all in Miami for his first two games, despite nearly missing their flight from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale on the day of the debut. The White.

“When he got his first hit,” Paul said, “it’s something I can’t describe. The emotions were so strong. We were jumping up and down. My wife and I were kissing and we were in our arms. You can’t put words to that.

Leblanc hopes other times will come.

For now, he pleads for the opportunity.

“At the end of the day,” Leblanc said, “baseball is baseball. Obviously it’s going to be a little better here. The clubhouse is a little prettier, a little nicer here, but baseball is is baseball. I hope I can just blend in and do my thing.

Jordan McPherson covers the Miami Marlins and high school sports for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and covered the Gators’ athletic program for five years before joining the Herald staff in December 2017.

Neal T. Doss