Ex-Yankee Ron Blomberg honored by Druid Hills

Ron Blomberg, who had his No. 12 jersey retired at Druid Hills High School on Friday, still jokes about his place in baseball history, 38 years after it happened.

Blomberg was the first major leaguer to play in a game as a designated hitter. While playing for the New York Yankees, Blomberg drew a walk in his first plate appearance against the rival Boston Red Sox on April 6, 1973.

"It has been 38 years, and I messed up the game of baseball forever, but they can never take it away with me," Blomberg said with a laugh.

Blomberg, 62, is one of the state's more decorated high school athletes, becoming the first to earn Parade All-American honors in football, basketball, and baseball. He signed a basketball scholarship with UCLA under legendary coach John Wooden, but decided to play baseball after being the No. 1 overall pick of the 1967 draft by the Yankees.

"I would've played basketball if any other team than the Yankees would've drafted me," Blomberg said. "It was the ideal situation for me, a Jewish kid from the South to being a Jewish player in New York City. That was a no-brainer of a decision for me."

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Many of Druid Hills' current baseball players were unaware of Blomberg's past accomplishments until Friday. Coach Matt Gershon, who was a toddler when Blomberg retired as a player in 1978, said the former DH is an inspiration to the program.

"Ron is an important part of Druid Hill athletics, and we have wanted to find some way to honor him since I became coach last year," said Matt Gershon. "It's good for our players to learn about history and know that good things are possible when you work hard for them."

Around 30 of Blomberg's former high school classmates showed up Friday to participate in the ceremony before the team's home game against Greater Atlanta Christian.

"It was the best, and it really meant a lot to me," Blomberg said. "When I get back to New York, I'm going to find Derek Jeter and joke with him that I got my high school jersey retired before he did."

Blomberg played eight years in the majors, including seven with the Yankees. He turned down radio and TV opportunities, along with the chance to be a Yankees hitting instructor, in the mid-1980s to move back to the Atlanta area to be with his ailing parents.

He still is involved with the Yankees in a celebrity capacity, commuting to New York for about 80 percent of baseball season. He does speaking engagements, meet-and-greet sessions with business groups at games and appearances with other former Yankees for autograph sessions. Blomberg is well-liked for his stories and humor.

"It's funny that when I mention my name in New York, people will think two things -- that I was the guy who was the first DH or they wonder if I'm related to [New York] Mayor Michael Bloomberg," Blomberg said.

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