Paul Leblanc is still on Cloud Nine.
It has been a little more than a week since his son, infielder Charles Leblanc, made his MLB debut with the Miami Marlins on July 30. He recorded his first MLB hit that night and slugged his first home run a day later with more than a dozen family members and friends in the stands wearing No. 83 Leblanc jerseys they had custom made when they arrived at loanDepot park.
Emotions were hard to contain.
“Every time I think about it, his first time on the field in Miami, it all comes back to his life flashing before my eyes,” Paul said in a phone interview Monday. “Going back to when he was 2 years old in the backyard and started hitting balls. That was something else.”
Leblanc has kept producing since that debut.
The 26-year-old infielder from Laval, Quebec — about 40 minutes from Montreal — has safely reached base in each of his first eight games with the Marlins. He is hitting .444 (12 for 27) with four doubles, one home run, one RBI and four runs scored. He has multiple hits in four of the eight games, including a three-hit performance on Sunday.
“I’ve settled in,” Leblanc said.
And he is giving the Marlins something to think about as they spend the final two months of the season, in part, evaluating the organization’s top young players to determine who might have a role with the club moving forward.
Leblanc isn’t ranked among the Marlins’ top-30 prospects. The organization acquired him from the Texas Rangers with their first pick in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft in December.
But his production early on in the big leagues along with what he did prior to his debut — he was hitting .302 with 14 home runs in Triple A Jacksonville prior to being called up — is tough to deny.
“He’s a guy that has a pretty good game plan when he walks up there and he stays with it,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “I think that’s one of the things you see. He’s more calm. He’s got some ABs under his belt. He’s not out there jumping at everything. He’s got an idea of what he wants to do and stays with it and he’s having success. He seems to be good at a lot of different things. He runs pretty good. He’s been pretty steady with his hands at third. He can play multiple positions.
“At this point,” Mattingly continued, “he hasn’t done anything that says he’s not a major league player.”
Getting to the big leagues has been Leblanc’s dream for some time now. The goal really came into focus in 2013 when he made the Canadian Junior National Team.
“Just that feeling of ‘OK, you’re actually one of the greater players in the country at your age,’ that’s when it clicked,” said Leblanc, just the 22nd Canadian-born player to reach the big leagues.
The Milwaukee Brewers drafted him in the 33rd round of the draft that year, five days after he turned 17. He turned down the offer and played two seasons at the University of Pittsburgh, winning the ACC’s batting title as a sophomore in 2016 when he hit a staggering .405 with 46 RBI and more walks (30) than strikeouts (29). The Rangers drafted him in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB Draft and he spent six years in their minor-league system before joining the Marlins this offseason.
Leblanc said he felt the 2021 season was a breakout year for him. He slugged 17 home runs in 96 games for the Rangers’ Triple A affiliate after hitting just 22 total home runs from 2016-2019.
“My first breakout power year,” Leblanc said.
That success continued into his first year with the Marlins and led to his MLB debut.
Leblanc said he didn’t feel the nerves but noted his heart was “racing like crazy” during his first at-bat.
But when Leblanc got his first hit — a double to right field against the New York Mets’ Carlos Carrasco in the eighth inning of his July 30 debut — he said the only thought going through his mind was if he should try for a triple. He hit a 395-foot home run to left field the next day against Taijuan Walker and pointed to his family in the stands as he rounded the bases.
“It’s definitely special,” Leblanc said.
From the stands, the family could only reflect and soak in the moment. Leblanc’s parents, sister, grandmother, fiancee and fiancee’s family were all in Miami for his first two games, although they nearly missed their flight from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale on the day of Leblanc’s debut.
“When he got his first hit,” Paul said, “it’s something that I can’t describe. Emotions were so high. We were jumping up and down. My wife and I were kissing and had each other in our arms. You can’t put words on it.”
Leblanc hopes more moments will come.
For now, he’s making his case to have the opportunity.
“At the end of the day,” Leblanc said, “baseball is baseball. Obviously, it’s going to be a little better here. The clubhouse is a little prettier, a little nicer here, but baseball is baseball. Hopefully, I’ll just be able to blend in and do my thing.”