Antioch native Paul Blackburn makes it to the majors, pitching for the A’s

Paul Blackburn pitches of the Oakland A’s. Photos by Michael Zagaris.

Opens college doors for over a dozen high school players

By Luke Johnson

After his second MLB start, it was hard for Paul Blackburn to believe it happened in real life.

“I still feel like I’m dreaming out here,” he said in a postgame interview.

The Oakland A’s newest pitcher spent his youth all over Eastern Contra Costa County. He was born in Antioch, grew up in Oakley and went to high school in Brentwood.

His coach at Heritage High School, Kevin Brannan, said Blackburn is responsible for the program’s influx of college-bound players.

“What he did was put Heritage on the map,” Brannan said. “Now I’m getting calls in preseason [from scouts] finding out, ‘Hey, who do you have this year?’…He definitely opened the door for a lot of kids.”

Blackburn is the first professional athlete to come out of Heritage High School (est. 2005). Before he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2012, only two Heritage baseball players went straight to four-year colleges. However, since he graduated, that number has inflated to 25. This figure consists of colleges that are Division I-III according to Brannan.

“There have always been a lot of great athletes that came through here, and I’m sure there will be a lot more,” Blackburn said.

Brannan said he used to beg for scouts to look at his athletes, but now he has them constantly contacting him – eager to come to games. In the past two seasons alone, nine Heritage baseball players have received Division-I scholarships.

“Back then, a kid would go to one showcase and maybe not have his best performance,” Brannan said. “But now scouts come to multiple games and a kid will have more opportunities than just that one at bat.”

In two MLB appearances, Blackburn has pitched 13 and 2/3 innings with a 0.66 ERA. His next start is Saturday in Oakland against the reigning American League Champions Cleveland Indians.

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