Former rivals, Gauthier and Blount now college teammates
By Greg Bates
DE PERE – The first time JP Gauthier and Josh Blount played baseball together was in T-ball.
De Pere youth programs provided the duo with many opportunities to thrive on the diamond.
When they were old enough for high school, the two went separate ways: Gauthier going to De Pere and Blount to West De Pere.
“We grew up playing together throughout Little League, and we always had the dream of playing college baseball, let alone playing together and playing at the Division I level,” Gauthier said.
When Illinois State University made scholarship offers to both Gauthier and Blount, independently, they both committed to the Missouri Valley Conference school to play Division I.
“It was some luck, and it was good to have the opportunity to play at the next level,” Blount said. “We didn’t go into it thinking we want to go somewhere together — it happened. It’s cool we both got unique opportunities to do that.”
After graduating from their respective high schools in spring 2021, Gauthier and Blount went off to college to be reunited.
The friends recently finished navigating their freshman season together on the field and in the classroom.
“We are going through it together,” Blount said. “All the changes that come with playing at a new level – it’s a whole different experience, especially coming in for freshman year in the fall.”
Gauthier also agreed with Blount.
“Him being my teammate now, it’s a dream come true,” he said. “Getting to play with him and having him by my side is cool.”
Gauthier and Blount’s dads started the travel baseball team De Pere Bulldogs, and the two played together from fourth to sixth grade.
The two were also teammates with the Impact Sports Academy (ISA) in Green Bay, playing together from freshman until junior season.
That led to their time as rivals in high school.
Both three-year players on varsity, the pair faced off against one another only once in high school.
Their junior seasons were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Blount was in COVID protocol during the teams’ showdown as a senior.
De Pere beat West De Pere 12-1 during Gauthier’s senior season.
“The West De Pere-East De Pere rivalry is cool,” Gauthier said. “I remember sophomore year we played at West De Pere, and it didn’t go our way — we got no-hit.”
Connor Langreder, now playing at Northern Illinois University, threw the no-hitter for West De Pere.
“It was one of the highlights of the year for our team,” Blount said. “I still talk to guys who were on that West De Pere team. It doesn’t carry the same power (now) as it did when we beat them in high school. Looking back, it’s still awesome and something I talk about.”
New experiences on the field
Gauthier and Blount, who both turn 20 in September, said they came into their freshman season not expecting a whole lot of in-game playing time.
Gauthier rose to the top and got a solid chance on the field.
He got his first career plate appearance as a pinch hitter in the third game of the season against No. 2-ranked Arkansas Feb. 20.
He stroked a single to center field in the ninth inning.
Two games later, Gauthier earned his first start and went 2-for-4 with three RBI and scored a pair of runs in his team’s 14-8 victory over Western Carolina.
“Funny story,” Gauthier said. “Our coach came to me in the hotel – we got to Western Carolina Thursday – and said, ‘You’re playing right field Saturday.’ I’ve never played right field before, let alone outfield, because I’m an infielder. I was in shock. I got the start in right field and was nervous, but once the game started, it was cool because the hard work was paying off. I wish my parents were there, but, unfortunately, they were in Green Bay. It was a cool moment.”
Gauthier, who will primarily be a third baseman after this season due to a graduating teammate, played all three outfield positions and third.
After his solid start at the plate, Gauthier hit a freshman slump at the end of the regular season.
Gauthier hit .226 this season.
After collecting three hits in his first five at-bats, he collected 11 the rest of the season.
“Playing as a freshman is different, especially with the pace of play,” Gauthier, who started 16 of his team’s 51 games, said. “Being comfortable to fail is learning when times don’t go your way and how to handle those situations.”
For Blount, he was stuck behind some upperclassmen.
He played in eight games and had three at-bats – he’s still looking for his first collegiate hit.
Blount played mostly left and right field.
“The big thing is trying to be the best teammate you can,” he said. “It’s trying to find ways to get better, whether it would be in practice or on your own time. It’s a change when you go from playing in high school and starting and then you come (to college) and don’t play. It’s a big change on the way you view yourself as a player.”
Even though Blount didn’t see much game action, he said he’s working hard in practice and in the weight room.
“As you go on, you keep working,” he said. “We had a few guys come back with the COVID redshirt year. It’s not exactly how I pictured it would go, but as the season went on, it changed. You can’t come in and expect anything – your spot is earned.”