'Sky is the limit': Detroit’s Werner Blakely earns rare honor as baseball All-American

Kevin Moore
Special to The Detroit News
Werner Blakely competes in the Professional Development Pipeline League.

Detroit – Youth baseball is often overlooked in Detroit. Most kids gravitate toward football or basketball. But that was not the case for Werner Blakely, who is a rare high-level baseball talent from the city.

The 17-year-old was selected play in the 2019 Under Armour All-American Game July 22 at Wrigley Field (3 p.m. ET, MLB Network). This prestigious game showcases the top high school players in the country. Since the Under Armour All-American Game started in 2008, there has been one other player from Michigan to participate in the contest – Nick Plummer of Birmingham Brother Rice in 2015.

Blakely is the first player from Detroit to participate in this game. Since 2005 there have been 365 Under Armour All-Americans taken in the MLB Draft and 108 first-round picks – and indication of the talent level of the players who participate in this game.

Blakely, who is from Detroit Edison and committed to Auburn, is the top prospect in the 2020 Michigan class by Prep Baseball Report.

Blakely, a 6-foot-4 shortstop, in January was invited to the USA Baseball MLB Joint Initiative (Professional Development Pipeline League), where the top 80 players in the country went to IMG Academy in Florida to be coached by Hall of Fame players such as Chipper Jones, Barry Larkin and Derek Jeter.

“That experience was amazing,” Blakely said. “To be able to pick the brains of Hall of Fame players who played my position was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Blakely attributes much of his skill development to competing against older players since he was very young.

“When I was 6 I played with my brother, who is three years older than me,” said Blakely. “I was out there playing with guys who were 9 at the time, so I just had to suck it up.”

Werner Blakely wants to lead Detroit Edison to a state title in 2020.

The biggest reason Blakely chose to pursue baseball was his grandfather.

“My grandfather loved everything about the game of baseball and I have always wanted to make him proud,” said Blakely.

Mark Brown, Blakely’s high school coach, said Blakely is an ideal student and athlete.

“It’s not every day you run into a kid like Werner,” Brown said. “He is a leader on and off the field and also a good student.”

Brown has been coaching baseball for over 30 years, both high school and travel. He said Blakely is a special talent.

“In all my years of coaching baseball, Werner is up there as one of the top players I’ve coached,” Brown said. “He’s always willing to help his team out and he makes my job as a coach a lot easier.”

Detroit Edison is known primarily as a basketball school. This past year Rickea Jackson won the Miss Basketball Award and also was a McDonald’s All-American.

But now Detroit Edison has another All-American in Blakely, who has high hopes for Edison: “I want to win a state championship my senior year.”

With all the success Blakely has had, he gives a lot of credit to his dad, Werner Sr., for keeping him humble and always pushing him to be the best player he can be.

“My dad is always on me,” Blakely said. “Even when I have a good game he tells me how I could have been better in other areas.”

Werner Blakely, center, with father Werner Sr. and brother Christian.

Blakely, the youngest of three children, comes from a family of athletes. Werner Sr. played football at Eastern Michigan, his sister Krista will play volleyball at Eastern Michigan this fall and his brother Christian was on the fall baseball team at the University of Michigan last year.

Christian, who is the oldest of the three, has enjoyed watching Werner become the player he is today.

“Words really can’t describe how proud I am of Werner,” said Christian. “We’ve came up together from such a young age and to see all the success he has had – I’m just so proud.”

Since they were kids, Christian had one simple message for his brother. “Grind it out,” said Christian. They both knew that if they wanted to be successful in baseball they would have to keep pushing each other.

“No matter what sport they played, they made sure to go out there and give it their all,” said Werner Sr. on his kids playing numerous sports growing up.

Werner Sr., who works at the Detroit Lions’ practice facility in Allen Park as head of security, knows baseball is an expensive sport.

“With all the traveling that Werner does, it certainly costs a pretty penny,” said Werner Sr. “A lot of the money I make goes to my kids travel programs.”

Blakely has followed his father’s advice since he began playing baseball.

“I said to him if you want to be successful in this sport you have to trust me, and he did,” said Werner Sr.

From the late-night cage sessions to throwing balls in the garage in the winter, Blakely aspires to be a great player.

“I want to be the best player I can possibly be,” said Werner. “One day I see myself playing for a Major League team.”

Blakely is a goal-setter and his dad firmly believes he can accomplish whatever he determines.

“Werner has always accomplished the goals he set,” said Werner Sr. “He said he wanted to be an All-American and he is. The sky is the limit for him.”