Blaise Salter was born and raised in Detroit, and as a young boy he dreamed of one day playing for the hometown team: the Tigers. Salter’s connection to the team ran deeper than simply one of boyhood admiration, though. The Tigers were in his blood. His grandfather was none other than Tigers legend Bill Freehan, the catcher for the 1968 World Series team, and one of the best players in Tigers history.
The first baseman, who is only 24 years old, got to experience his dream becoming reality when the Tigers called his name in the draft not once, but twice. The first time in 2011, in the 38th round, when he was 17 and just poised to graduate. Then again in 2015 in his senior year at MSU, in the 31st round, when he was finally ready to say yes.
Salter spent four seasons in the Tigers minor league system, playing everywhere from West Michigan, to Lakeland, to Erie. In that time, he suffered from two different concussions as a result of play. The first came from a 100 mph fastball to the side of the helmet during a game in Lakeland. The second came in Erie, where he was hit by a base runner while trying to get an out at first.
After the second concussion, Salter decided it might be time to evaluate his future, and whether or not he could continue to play professional baseball. He looked to his grandfather, Freehan, who is now out of the public eye and suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Salter doesn’t know for sure if Freehan’s dementia is a result of the beatings he took behind home plate for the Tigers, but the risk was too real to ignore.
In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, Salter was candid about his reasoning.
“I want to do things outside of baseball. I don’t want anything to hold me down long term. I really thought it was the best thing for me and my family to move on without baseball. Obviously, baseball has given me great things my entire life. But I have other aspirations outside of baseball that will have the opportunity to give me a wonderful life.”
Not wanting to find himself in the same position as his grandfather further down the line, the young infielder made the mature, and exceptionally difficult, decision to voluntarily retire from baseball. “I lived a childhood dream for 24 years and I am the happiest kid ever knowing that I have [given] my everything to baseball,” Salter wrote in a statement on his Twitter account.
His closeness to his grandfather made the choice easier for Salter, who says he couldn’t overlook the connection between Freehan’s injuries on field and his current condition. “I don’t even know if they documented concussions back in the day. But obviously, he had enough. Think about it, when he was catching, they didn’t have helmets as a catcher. There is foul ball after foul ball off his head. There is definitely a connection,” he told the Free Press.
Ultimately, while the choice to walk away now was a tough one, Salter believes it was the right call. “I think I’m educated enough to make a decision for myself that is going to better my future. It’s a tough decision, but in reality, it’s a good decision.”
He hopes to go into medical sales now that baseball is a part of his past.
Read his complete statement below.