By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – When Tom Carty took over as manager of the Green Bay Booyah this year, he was given a random uniform number.
Carty looked at the No. 9 jersey a little dumbfounded.
Soon after, Carty approached one of his players, Blaise Maris.
“I said, ‘How’d that happen?’” Carty asked. “Blaise joked with me, and I’m like, ‘Blaise, I’ll give it to you, I’ll give it to you – I didn’t request 9. I don’t care what number I wear.’”
Maris generally wears No. 9 with any team he plays on.
During the college season, he wears No. 9 for Florida Tech.
In his first season playing collegiate summer ball in Green Bay in 2018, Maris wore No. 9.
The Maris name and No. 9 are almost synonymous with one another.
That number, of course, belonged to New York Yankees great Roger Maris.
He just happens to be Blaise’s grandpa.
The 23-year-old Maris loves being a baseball player who was born into a great family lineage.
“I think there are a lot of people that could turn it into a negative light, but I think there’s a lot of people that do a good job in not taking it too far,” Maris said. “I think it’s more of a blessing than anything else. I feel really honored to represent the name.”
Carty doesn’t sense any extra stress with Maris trying to live up to his surname; the manager sees his young player embrace it.
“He was brought up well,” Carty said. “He values it and there’s a great amount of pride in owning the name. I think the family instilled how the game’s played – Blaise appreciates that.”
Maris – whose dad, Randy, is the fourth of Roger’s six kids — said he always gets asked about his grandpa from fans and baseball junkies.
Since Roger died in 1985, 11 years before Blaise was born, his grandson never knew the legendary baseball player.
“I do wish I had gotten a chance to meet him, more so over the baseball stuff but being my grandpa and all,” said Maris, who’s grandpa hit a then-MLB record 61 home runs in one season in 1961. “Aside from the fact that he’s Roger Maris, I would have liked to have met my dad’s dad and be able to see the relationship they had.”
If Maris was still alive today, what advice would he give to his grandson?
“I think he would tell me to play my ass off, play hard every single day and not take anything for granted because you never know – one day your career could be over,” Maris said. “I think that’s the way he lived – play like your head was on fire and get after it every single day.”
Maris tries to pattern parts of his game after his grandpa.
The older Maris — who played 12 years in the major leagues, won three World Series titles and was named the American League MVP twice — was a lefthanded hitter and played outfield.
The younger Maris is righthanded and plays catcher.
“He played hard,” said Maris about what he takes from his grandpa. “There’s nothing about looking good, he didn’t really care too much about what we call today swag. He went out and played the game hard and tried to play it the right way. That’s how I try and model my game.”
From time to time, Maris watches game film of his grandpa to try and pick up a couple of pointers at the plate.
“I do like to go back and watch his swing, Maris said. “He was an elite hitter and an elite defender – a really good baseball player. If you can do anything to play like him, you’re doing okay.”
Carty loves having a player like Maris on his team.
“I think the best compliment any baseball player can have is ‘that guy’s a baseball player,’” Carty said. “He brings great energy. He brings a great attitude to the ballpark every day. You’d like to see more guys have it, but he definitely has it. It’s fun to be around.”
Maris, a Gainesville, Florida native, came to Green Bay last summer to play in the Northwoods League.
He ended up hitting .296 on the season.
After a solid junior campaign at Florida Tech, Maris made sure to latch onto the Booyah squad this season.
“I’m really happy the way it turned out,” Maris said. “It was a no-brainer to come back. The atmosphere, the fans, the stadium and the actual level of baseball, you don’t beat it anywhere else.”
Maris is hitting .262 on the season (as of July 26) and his prowess at the plate has picked up of late.
After his batting average dipped to .158 in mid-June, Maris had a seven-game stretch in which he went 11-for-25 (.444) to raise his average over 100 points.
“I think the confidence thing, that definitely plays a big role into it,” Maris said. “Not that I wasn’t confident before, but once you get a couple of big hits, have a couple of good games and you start winning, you give your confidence a boost and feed off that. You feel like you can do anything at the plate, and that’s what’s going on with me.”
Maris, who has registered four home runs and 17 RBI this season, considers himself a well-rounded player both offensively and defensively.
However, it’s his play behind the plate that really stands out.
“I have always focused on my defense in the past growing up because I knew the bat would come along,” Maris said. “I really push myself on defense and pride myself on that, because if you can catch and be a really good catcher, you can have a huge impact on the game more so than the bat – that bat is extra.”
Maris has become more of a leader this season for the Booyah due to the fact he’s the oldest player on the roster and he’s in his second year with the organization.
Having Maris on the team has been a great benefit to Carty in his first year as skipper.
“I’ve leaned on him as I’ve gotten to learn him better – it’s a trust thing,” Carty said. “You want to trust players in your organization and he was easy to trust early. I laid some responsibility as a leader in the program, and he’s handled it well.”
After Maris’ season wraps up with the Booyah – which is a curtain call because he won’t be eligible to return to the Booyah since he’ll be a senior in college – he will have one final season at Florida Tech.
He’s hoping to have an impactful year and sign a free agent deal with a professional club.
“If anybody’s going to not pay me to play baseball but if there’s a chance to keep playing, I’m going to do it,” Maris said. “I do take a lot of pride in that and that’s my motivation every day. I’m the last [direct Maris descendant] as of right now to be playing baseball, so I want to do what I can to keep the name in baseball physically. I’m going to see how far I can take it.”