In the early 1990s, the Andover High baseball program may have been the strongest the Merrimack Valley has ever produced.
One of the greats of that era for coach Dave Bettencourt’s juggernaut was fireballing southpaw David Blank, who will be inducted into the Punchard-Andover High Hall of Fame on Friday. It’s just the third induction since 1995 (2006, 2016, 2019).
“I’m very honored,” said Blank, who as a senior in 1991 was named Gatorade Massachusetts Player of the Year.
The Blank family is honored and, as per usual, will be out in full force to honor their, well, favorite son.
“It will be quite an entourage,” said Blank, who still lives in Andover.
That will include his parents, Bob and Irene, who now live in Salem, New Hampshire; his children Andover High senior Jake, Andover West Elementary sixth grader Laila and Andover’s Sanborn Elementary third grader Annabella; his sisters Vanessa, Noelle and Rachelle; his girlfriend Sarah Starkweather; his uncles George and Allen Fantini and his brother-in-law Vince De La Hoz, who is in the Air Force and is flying in for the event.
Bob and Irene Blank were always at their children’s games.
Blank said, “They never missed a game. I don’t care if it was football or soccer for my sisters, they were at every single event.”
As a dad, David can appreciate how difficult that can be. Particularly because his father worked in Boston.
The Eagle-Tribune named an All-Decade (1990s) baseball team and the rugged 6-1, 195-pound Blank was one of four pitchers selected.
No wonder. As a senior he was 9-1 with 72 strikeouts in 54 innings in what would be the first of back-to-back Division 1 state titles for the Golden Warriors.
He joked he wasn’t much of a hitter but that was far from the truth. He led Andover in runs (31), walks (16) and home runs (3) as a senior.
As a junior, he was 6-2 with five 1-hitters and a 0.96 ERA.
“Part of the genius of coach Bettencourt,” he explained, “was he got us all to believe every time we took the field we were going to win.”
He said over the years he’s talked to rivals who told Blank, “Sometimes when you came off the bus, you had us beat.”
It began with the pitching and Blank played with some greats: Chris Eggert (AHS ‘90), Jim Hanning (‘92) and Justin Hesenius (‘93) were all superstars.
“It was incredible. It really was. It was amazing,” said Blank.
Eggert and Hesenius are in the Hall and Blank and Hanning will be inducted as individuals Friday. The 1991 and 1992 state title teams are also being inducted.
FOOTBALL STAR, TOO
Blank also was a three-year starter in football. As a senior running back/defensive back, he rushed for 893 yards and scored 10 TDs. At that time, those were among the best single-season stats ever by an Andover back.
Of course, he was running behind a couple of 270-pound bruisers who would go on to star in the bigtime in Joe Marinaro (University of Michigan) and Erik Greenstein (University of Maryland).
“I just had to not fumble the ball! It was pretty easy,” he said.
He chose Division 1 South Florida over BC and Maine, which was then “the” program in New England.
“It was one of the few schools which told me I had a chance to start as a freshman,” he explained. “They gave me the opportunity and I won the job. USF was the best decision I ever made.”
The Bulls also had no regrets as Blank had a fine career. He made 74 career appearances, 68 in relief, and went 11-4.
Blank, a special education teacher at Andover High, has been a coach the last six years with the East Cobb New England Expos showcase team and has been the pitching coach the last decade at North Andover High.
Not coincidentally, the Scarlet Knights have had quite a run of top pitchers including this year’s superstar Sebastian Keane (Northeastern recruit) and Eagle-Tribune MVPs Brendan Parisotto (2016), Evan Glew (2015), Brandon Walsh (2012) and Mike Weisman (2011).