An 18-month-old Blake Money sat on the floor in the living room of his Florida home with four options.
“My mom always told me that she would lay a basketball, a football, a tennis ball and a baseball out in front of me,” Money said.
According to her, he always grabbed the baseball. Money said he discovered his love for the sport that involves that white ball with red stitching when he was able to walk.
“I started swinging a bat and hitting a ball in the living room with my dad at 18 months, so I started super young,” he said. “I loved it when I started, and I continue to love it more and more each and every day.”
As he got older, he actually came to enjoy some of those sports he chose baseball over as an 18-month-old. While still living in Florida, he tried football from the ages of five to seven. But it didn’t stick with him when he and his family, which includes two younger brothers and an older sister, packed their bags and headed to Tennessee. There, football took a backseat to baseball for a few years. When he got to middle school, he tried again, going back to the football field in eighth grade for one final time after also trying basketball for one season the year before.
“Football was a lot of fun. I wanted to play my eighth grade year because going into high school I had already made the decision to focus solely on baseball and grind it out for four years,” he said.
While his middle school years may have seemed normal, they were anything but. In 2013 and ‘14, Money lived every young baseball player’s dreams when he and his Tennessee Little League squad won their way to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. He called the experience “unreal.”
“I was fortunate enough to go twice and both trips were equally as fun,” he said. “It was just an unbelievable experience and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“They paired a U.S. team up to live with an international team, and both times I was there we stayed next to Mexico. Every day we were communicating in some way with them, whether it was going to eat or playing ping-pong in the lounge. It was really cool to meet everybody from different parts of the world.”
While the baseball in Williamsport is ultimately what he was there for, Money talked about the off-the-field moments, memories and interactions as if that is what he cherished the most.
“I feel like that’s something that gets left out,” he said of the off-the-field memories. “You know, it’s great to go play baseball there but you get to create friendships and memories while you’re there. One of the things I thought was great was we developed a relationship with the team from Australia, and a lot of those kids I still talk to today.”
What most people may remember about Money from the Little League World Series had little to do with him. Instead, it was one of his younger brothers that stole the show.
That’s right. Cash Money.
“Cash is a funny little kid,” his brother Blake Money said. “It was funny to check Twitter and Instagram and read the comments and see what people had to say about us naming him Cash.”
Beyond Cash, Money describes his family as “close-knit.” It’s a pretty typical family. A mother, a father, three boys and a daughter. But what makes it so much more than typical, according to Money, is that every one of them plays a role in his successes on and off the field.
“[My dad’s] my biggest fan but also my biggest critic,” he said. “It keeps me true and keeps me honest. If I’m down in the slumps, he pulls me out of it, and if he thinks I’m getting ahead of myself, he brings me back down to earth. I always know I can count on him.”
But it’s not just his father. Money feels the support from his mother, two brothers and his sister, Morgan, a fellow LSU student, too.
“They have the same hopes and dreams as I do of playing professional baseball,” Money said of his brothers, “and both of them are hard workers. They enjoy every day, they work every day, they attack the classroom every day and they enjoy their successes on the baseball field every day. Logan and Cash are two peas in a pod, they’re best friends.”
Money has dealt with big expectations his entire baseball career. Little League World Series, top-ranked recruit in the class of 2020 and First Team All-State in Tennessee, are just a few examples. Money, though, says what will prepare him best for SEC baseball won’t be his past accomplishments when the spotlight shined the brightest.
“I think what’s going to prepare me to play college baseball is playing college baseball,” he said.
“You’re going up against the best of the best. You got to get better every day of the week and not take anything for granted. The preparation becomes a bigger factor in your success in college.”
One way he’s preparing for college baseball is the development and addition of a third pitch to his repertoire. He calls it a “slurve.” It doesn’t break from top to bottom like a 12-6 curveball, nor is it tight-knit like a slider.
“It just comes in there and swoops out,” he said of his new pitch.
It’s something he’s been working on for over a year, and it’s caught the attention of Head Coach Paul Mainieri.
“His breaking ball has improved drastically over the past year and a half,” Mainieri said.
“That’s how you have a true three-pitch mix, when you can throw your fastball for a strike when you need it, your changeup for a strike when you need it and the breaking ball for a strike when you need it. It’s a huge thing to have, especially at this level. It really helps to disrupt hitters’ timing, getting ground balls and getting outs,” Money said.
That hard work and dedication has never stopped for Money, even during this past summer when baseball was the last thing on people’s minds. His workouts and practices continued, only then it was with Cash and Logan and not his travel or high school team. The three major league hopefuls did everything from going on runs to letting loose in the backyard, except “sit around dry,” as Money calls it.
“We wanted to stay as fresh as we could and stay on top of our game,” he said. “We worked hard every day and treated it as if we were going to get back out there again.”
With the 2021 season right around the corner, Money is confident he’ll be able to do whatever the team asks of him. He wants to be a starter; it’s what he’s been his whole life. But, he would be open to coming in as relief if needed.
“I just want an opportunity to compete and play hard, and I want to help my team win the best I can,” he said.
Confidence is key for all baseball players, pitchers particularly. It can make or break a young man’s career. Like all of his successes in other aspects of his life, Money credits his family for his confidence that he brings to the mound.
“If you aren’t confident in what you do,” he said, “you don’t do it to the best of your ability. If you are, you compete at a higher level.”
What Money finds so intriguing about baseball is that it’s, as he calls it, a game of failure.
“You can fail seven out of 10 times and still be considered a hall of famer,” he said.
Confidence is needed to push through those failures, but some company along for the ride helps, too.
For Blake Money, that’s not only his actual family, but also his new baseball family.
“If you try to take it on on your own, it gets lonely,” he said.
“It’s great to know I’m not walking this path alone, and I’ve always got somebody with me.”