The late Casey Stengel, manager of the New York Yankees dynasty during the 1950s, had arguably the best catcher in the history of baseball, St. Louisan Yogi Berra, on his dominant teams. Stengel, a character whose sense of humor sometimes overshadowed his true genius at managing, was once asked the secret of the Yankees’ success. He replied, ” I never play a game without my man (Berra).” Despite Mickey Mantle and all the other stars on those 1950s teams, Stengel knew that Yogi Berra was his most reliable player. I’m not trying to compare AC St. Louis’ 22 year-old defender Mark Bloom’s career with that of Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, except in this sense — Mark is one of only two AC St. Louis players (the other being goalkeeper Alec Dufty) who has played in all eight of the team’s games so far. Obviously, AC St. Louis coach Claude Anelka doesn’t feel comfortable unless Mark is in the lineup.
Mark played baseball, also, before having to choose between baseball and soccer. “Luckily I chose soccer, said Mark. “My dad, Neil, was a high school soccer coach (at Lassiter High), which played a huge role in my decision to choose soccer over baseball because I idolized the players on his team and wanted to be just like them.”
Mark, a native of Marietta, Georgia, chose Berry College, in Mt. Berry, Georgia, to continue his career after high school. “Coming out of high school, I wasn’t heavily recruited at all because of my size. I was considerably smaller and wouldn’t be ready for the physical play of most Division I schools. Berry contacted me after a club tournament that I went to, so I began researching Berry as well as other smaller schools. It turned out that Berry was a perennial powerhouse in the NAIA so I went up to train with the team. Berry gave me a great offer so I decided a few weeks later that Berry would be a great fit for me.” Mark stated. While at Berry, Mark was the team MVP as a senior, the team won two conference titles while Mark was on the team and he scored 13 goals during his collegiate career. Mark also played in the USL Premier Development League with the Atlanta Silverbacks U-23 team and the Southern California Seahorses during the summer.
After college, Mark had the desire to turn professional. “AC St. Louis contacted me through a combine that was held in Florida,” Mark said. ” I was invited to the Invitational try-out held in St. Louis and from there I was asked to be a part of the team. It was very exciting and relieving at the same time. The whole process was long and stressful because there are so many other players vying for the same spot. It has always been my dream to play pro, but I know that I haven’t made it yet. I still have a lot of proving to do.” Upon Mark’s signing, AC St. Louis Director of Player Development Francisco Filho, said that Mark ” is the best left defender we have seen.”
DId Mark have any first game jitters in his USSF D2 debut? “There were a number of different emotions going into that first game against Carolina,” Mark continued. “But once the game starts, there is only one thing on my mind. I naturally become focused on the game and forget about all the other distractions. Also, I was truly blessed to have my Dad, my mother Joan and my brother David attend the first game because they have been my biggest supporters, and I want to share all of this with them. ”
Mark is also enjoying the fan support here in St. Louis He told me that “the home fans are incredible. The fans make it a huge advantage to play at home. Their continued support for 90 minutes motivates us to get the win that the crowd deserves. The support does not go unnoticed, and we are truly thankful to all the fans who continue to support us.”
Mark shares an apartment with teammate Anthony O’Garro, who attended Shorter College, about five miles down the road from Berry. Small world. Mark enjoys playing other sports in his free time, including basketball, tennis, golf, baseball and football. Growing up near Atlanta, he is a Falcons, Hawks and Braves fan. In the soccer world, he admires former AC Milan and current Real Madrid superstar Kaka. “I started rooting for AC Milan because I loved watching Kaka play. He’s not the flashiest player, but everything he does is so smooth and effective. He is also a great role model for me because he has his life in perspective spiritually and that is something that I aspire to,” Mark commented. Mark doesn’t enjoy just sitting around, but when he games, he enjoys FIFA ’10, which he thinks is great.
Mark feels that he still has a lot to prove, but apparently AC St. Louis coach Claude Anelka is impressed. He never goes to into a match without Mr. Reliable, Mark Bloom, in his lineup. Mark’s college coach seconds that notion. “I have no doubt that Mark will make a big impact in St. Louis,” said Berry head coach Richard Vardy. “He will be a great professional and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up playing at an even higher level in the next few years.”