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Gazette Premium Content Klee: Charlie Blackmon in the cockpit for Colorado Rockies

5 photos photo - Colorado Rockies right fielder Charlie Blackmon does his calisthenics prior to batting practice for the Rockies' baseball game against the San Diego Padres on Thursday, April 17, 2014, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi) + caption
Colorado Rockies right fielder Charlie Blackmon does his calisthenics prior to batting practice for the Rockies' baseball game against the San Diego Padres on Thursday, April 17, 2014, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
by PAUL KLEE The Gazette - Updated: April 19, 2014 at 4:26 pm

DENVER — Folding the laundry in his locker, cleaned fresh after a seven-game road trip, the center fielder for the Rockies ranks his career aspirations.

"I told somebody, and I can't remember who it was, that my goal as a baseball player is to be good enough to get in a fighter jet," he says.

This, sports fans, is Charlie Blackmon.

What you see — the mountain-man beard, the commoner's approach to life, the dry humor — is what you get. You get a guy who'd rather chunk Power Bait to the bottom of Elevenmile than wear a suit. You get a potential All-Star who plays with remote-controlled airplanes. You get a 27-year-old whose favorite movie is "Top Gun."

You get this: "My favorite thing to do, since I was young, was make paper airplanes," says the man with the second-best batting average in Major League Baseball.

"Anything that flew, I thought was the coolest. I still feel that way."

Colorado thinks you're cool, Charlie.

A strange thing is happening these days at Coors Field. No. 19 jerseys are standing in beer lines. Shouts of "Fear the beard!" accompany his walk-up song: "Your Love," performed by The Outfield... a tune from 1985, a year before Charlie was born.

"Josie's on a vacation far-away.. come around and talk it over.."

It gets the people going.

Chuck gets the people going.

"I can't take Charlie Blackmon out of the lineup," manager Walt Weiss said after his leadoff man dropped another 3-for-5 outing on the Phillies on Friday.

"He's off to a helluva start," Weiss added.

That upped his batting average to .426. So this weekend's series between the Rockies and Phillies featured the top two hitters in the majors: one a 12-year big-league veteran (Phillies second baseman Chase Utley), one an aspiring pilot.

If Blackmon is an overnight sensation, however, that was one long night. Colorado selected him in the second round of the 2008 draft. His stops included Pasco, Modesto, Tulsa, Colorado Springs, the hospital (for a staph infection in his knee) and the DL (for a broken foot that ended his first big-league season, 2011). His reaction to foot issues was totally Chuck: "It was like, 'Crap. I'm hurt.'"

"I love it when people say 'overnight sensation.' I've been in the big leagues for parts of four seasons now," he says. "It's humbling. Nobody knows who I am. If I walk down the street - right after the game - somebody might recognize me.

"Probably not. Maybe. But probably not."

The beard bumps his Q rating. So did the six hits on opening day, tying a Rockies record, and the 26 hits through 18 games, which leads the National League.

Will it last? Who knows?

The layman should hope so. Chuck is so different he's normal.

"I like the fishing out here. I'm so used to fishing for bass and that kind of thing," says the native Georgian. "We usually take two rods out; one has Power Bait, that foamy stuff. The other one is, like, spoons and spinners. What I like about it is you never know what you're going to catch. It could be a pike."

It could be a fluke. Blackmon's wicked start to the season could be a fluke, an accident at altitude (never mind he's batting .313 on the road). It could go to his head.

Doubt it. Chuck's still folding laundry, still wearing Star Wars t-shirts, still rocking a grizzly beard like he plays for the Avs. Chuck's down to earth, until one day, when he finally realizes his career goal, he's not.

"I really want to get a plane, which sounds ridiculous," he says. "They're, like, really expensive and I'm not super-rich or anything."

Riding high, Chuck's laying low. Sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.


Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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