Hard-throwing Bobby Blevins of Briarcliff Still Hopes to Strike it Big0
BY CHUCK SLATER
The goal remains the same. Briarcliff’s Bobby Blevins, who set pitching records at Briarcliff High School and LeMoyne College and is now in his eighth professional season, still sees the major leagues as the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I’m pitching as well as I ever have,” said the 29-year-old who still zips his fastball to the plate at 93 miles per hour.
And, after three seasons as the ace of the Rockland Boulders, he is excelling again in tougher competition. At his league’s all-star break, he was 5-3 with a 3.90 earned run average and seven no-decisions for the Long Island Ducks in the hitter-happy Atlantic League.
[The league is an independent circuit not part of Major League Baseball or its farm system, but serves as a feeder league to MLB’s AA and AAA clubs.]
“I’m going against better competition,” he said. “People have really been noticing.”
Noticing as in upper-league professional teams? “Absolutely. That’s why I chose this league. It’s the one I have to be in to have it happen.”
Blevins is the No. 2 starter on the Atlantic League’s No. 2 team, which had 40 wins at the break. “He’s been consistent,” said Ducks manager Kevin Baez. “He’s been a bulldog, he keeps you in the game and he’s a good guy on the team.
“He keeps the ball down, throws strikes and has good mound presence.”
And he has walked just 16 men in 95 innings with over 60 strikeouts.
In a sense, this is his third time around with the Ducks. After the previous two seasons with the Boulders, he joined the Ducks for the post-season and both years started the winning championship game. In last fall’s finale, he went eight innings, yielding but three hits before the Ducks won in 16.
Baez too wonders why the higher minors haven‘t summoned his consistent righthander. “I don’t know why he doesn’t get a chance,” the manager said. “From what I’ve seen, he can certainly do triple-A.”
And Class AAA is one step from the major leagues.
Blevins made it to triple-A at one point. After his brilliant records in high school and college, he was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. He spent four years in their system, even reaching Class AAA but when the Dodgers decided to drop him to A ball to start his fifth season, he asked for his release.
Three seasons with the Boulders followed, the last of which saw him among the league leaders in every pitching category. He was voted Pitcher of the Week four times. But after his post-season success for the Ducks, the team grabbed him full time.
Still, a minor league salary goes just so far, especially for a married man. Blevins supplements it with off-season work as an independent pitching instructor, often with budding high school stars.
But each pitch, each lesson is, he hopes, moving him one step closer to the big goal: the big leagues.
So for how long will he follow the dream?
“Until my body tells me I can‘t,” says Bobby Blevins.