Blevins Still Thinking Big (League)0
By Chuck Slater
“Lots of guys in their thirties make it to the big leagues,” says pitcher Bobby Blevins. It is a dream the now 32-year-old lifetime Briarcliff resident is still pursuing. Still pursuing in his 11th pro-season. Still pursuing after 1,600-plus professional innings without an injury. Still pursuing with undiminished dedication albeit a slightly diminished fastball.
Nowadays, the heater no longer tops out at 93 miles per hour. “Right now I’m pitching 89-91, maybe 92,” Blevins reports. Many big-league pitchers are in the same range.
The right-hander is pitching for the perennially strong Sugar Land Skeeters from Sugar Land, Texas, in the Atlantic League of professional baseball. He is in the regular rotation and was 4-4 at the all-star break with a 4.00 earned run average and an ERA in the top 10 among starters in a hitter-friendly league.
“I still have the drive and passion,” Blevins says. “And if you’re not playing, you don’t get the chance. We’re the best team in the league with a beautiful first-class stadium and the best manager I’ve had in a long time, Gary Gaetti.” Gaetti, an 11-year major leaguer, “brings in players with the same passion I have.”
During his marathon 2016 season, Blevins and his wife Jen traveled halfway round the world for pitching assignments, logging an awesome 310 innings deep into the traditional off-season. While still teaching private lessons to aspiring pitchers, he has done things differently this time around.
His arm (“Never missed any time, knock on wood.”) seems to have responded as he awaits a hoped-for response from a big-league club needing reliable pitching. “This winter I rested,” the Briarcliff resident said. “I recovered this off-season, gave myself time off. Gave myself a full chance.”
Blevins won 36 games for Briarcliff High School, then was a Little All American at Le Moyne College. Drafted by the Dodgers organization, he finished 2007 as the most valuable player for the Ogden Raptors in a Class A Rookie League. He spent the next two seasons pitching high A ball for the L.A. farm system and in 2010 he pitched single-A, double-A and triple-A as a starter and reliever. With Albuquerque of the stepping-stone AAA Pacific Coast League, he was a short step from the majors.
So, when in the following spring training, the Dodgers wanted to drop Blevins to A ball, he balked and got his release. “I’m here to make the major leagues somehow, some way,” he said, then signed with the new Rockland Boulders of the strong independent Canadian American League. He spent three seasons as the team’s local favorite, also helping the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League win two post-season championships before losing to Sugar Land last season.
And now? “I’m pitching well,” says Bobby Blevins. “He still enjoys it,” said Robert Blevins, the former high-school catcher who helped coach his pitcher/son.
“It’s been a very interesting journey,” said the son. With hopefully one more interesting journey in the future.