By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa. –Curve outfielder Bligh Madris had just spent an hour taking extra batting practice under the watchful eye of hitting coach Jon Nunnally at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
He was both grateful and excited.
“We got home at 10 p.m. last night (from Richmond) and he’s out here helping me at noon,” Bligh said of Nunnally. “It’s great having a coach like that, and all of our (Curve) coaches are willing to do that.”
Madris is not rated among the Pirates brightest young prospects, but he’s batted around the .300 mark the first month of the season for the Curve.
“He’s done a pretty good job for us, been pretty consistent,” manager Michael Ryan said of Madris, a 23-year-old from Las Vegas, who was a standout player at Division 2 Colorado Mesa University before the Pirates drafted him (ninth round) in 2017.
“I don’t think the organization wanted him to rush into Double-A,” Ryan noted, “but he’s proving he can handle the level. He’s not a surprise, he’s been very good and it’s fun watching him get better each week and be able to do what he can in the middle of the lineup.”
A two-time all-state selection at Foothill High School in Henderson, Nev., Madris was a standout at Colorado Mesa where he hit .422 with 17 homers, 67 RBIs and a. 757 slugging percentage in 62 games in 2017.
Used as a closer, Madris also made eight pitching appearances for Colorado Mesa and was a finalist for the Tino Martinez Player of the Year Award, D2’s most outstanding player.
Even though he wasn’t a star on the D1 college level, Madris is proving he can play on the professional level. After signing with the Pirates, he played 2017 at low-A West Virginia and batted .270 in 56 games with the Black Bears.
Madris led the Black Bears with 13 doubles, 61 hits and 36 runs, was fifth in the New York-Penn League with 97 total bases and was selected to the NYPL All-Stars.
That showing earned him a promotion to advanced-A Bradenton in 2018 where he batted .238 in 103 games. He also delivered three game-winning hits for the Marauders.
Which brought him to Altoona and the Eastern League for the 2019 season.
Madris (6-0, 208) is happy to be with the Curve and is happy for the opportunity and coaching he’s getting in the Pittsburgh organization.”
“I’m grateful to John (Nunnally) for what he does,” Madris said after the extra BP session. “He comes out and gives us confidence and new ways to look at things.
“He’s out here one-on-on with guys early,” Madris said. “He puts something across your mind maybe you haven’t thought about before. It’s as much mental as physical. Everybody here has the same capabilities. It’s what’s between the ears that can really separate you.”
“I want him to be more direct to the baseball,” Nunnally, the Curve’s first-year hitting coach said of Madris. “I want him to use that (left-handed) power.”
“Everybody has pop,” Madris said. “It’s who can be more consistent over a 140-game season and that’s what he’s trying to teach me.
“I’m happy to be here,” Madris added. “I love the Pittsburgh organization.”