Just a short drive from where he regularly had high school hitters flailing at his pitches, a local baseball star is stepping up his game at a higher level.
Briarcliff High School alumnus Bobby Blevins has put together a strong season pitching for the Rockland Boulders, who play in the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball (Can-Am League). So far this season, Blevins has a record of 6-6 and an earned run average of 3.78 in 95 1/3 innings on the mound. Blevins has also fanned 65 batters this summer in 15 games.
This is Blevins’ second season with the Boulders, who play their home games in Pomona. Last season he finished the year 6-8 with a 3.99 E.R.A.. He threw 131 innings striking out 82 batters in his 19 starts.
So far Blevins seems to be building on last season’s success. As far as chasing his dream of getting to the big leagues, it gets very trick. Most Major League Baseball teams have a total of seven to eight minor league clubs in their system to garner young talented ballplayers that will hopefully help aid their major league roster. For example the New York Yankees and New York Mets each have eight minor league teams while the Boston Red Sox’s have seven teams.
The minor league teams for each major league team is designed a certain level of talent and the highest level being Triple-A and the lowest being Rookie Ball. Each minor league pitching roster has at least 10 pitchers on their roster.
The Can-Am league is for players who are not owned by any major league organization. Independent minor league baseball teams like the Rockland Boulders are made up of professional ballplayers with vast backgrounds. Some players in independent leagues have made it to major leagues and been released. Other players who have never been drafted or signed by a major league team and some players were drafted and played several years in the minor leagues before getting let go by their organization.
Blevins knows what its like to pitch for a major league franchise in their minor league system. He was drafted in the 13th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2007 baseball draft. Several big-name major league players that were selected in 2007 including David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays and Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves.
Blevins has been a star baseball player for many years. He was all-state selection as a junior and senior when he played at Briarcliff. While he was in high school he compiled 39 wins and threw two perfect games and his senior year he had a 0.00 ERA during the regular season.
He continued his success at Le Moyne College where he had a record of 32-13 with a 3.15 E.R. A. In his junior year he posted 10 wins, two shutouts and struck out 95 batters in 98 innings.
His minor league career began in the Pioneer League, where he pitched for the Ogden Raptors at the rookie league level in 2007. The next two seasons (2008-2009) he spent in Single-A ball in the Midwestern League. As a member of the Great Lakes Loons he won 13 games. In 2010 he played three different levels, getting as close to the majors leagues as one can get for the Dodgers pitching for their renowned Triple-A team, the Albuquerque Isotopes. He played five games for the Isotopes, earning one win with a 4.15 E.R.A.
The road to Major League Baseball has more cruel stories than Disney movies moment. Blevins was released by the Dodgers organization in March of 2011 and signed with the Rockland Boulders soon after for the 2011 season.
Despite this challenging journey in his quest to try to make the it to The Show, Blevins kept a positive mindset and has a good feeling about the way he has pitched so far in 2012.
“I feel like I’m pitching great,” said Blevins. “I want to stay strong. It’s a little past half-way through [the season]. After the first part of the season I got about 80 innings in and now it’s just about maintaining and finishing strong.”
He has had success this year by throwing a wide range of pitches. According to Blevins, his fastball peaks between 88 and 92 miles. Blevins also throws a cutter, slider, sinker, curve ball and drops down and throws sidearm on a few occasions.
His pitching coach and manager knows a thing or two about making it to the majors. Dave LaPoint, who is in his second years as the Boulders manager, pitched in the majors for 12 seasons. The best part of his career came as a St. Louis Cardinal in the early 1980’s. He was a member of the Cardinals team that won the 1982 World Series, serving as both a starting and relief pitcher for that 1982 team. During his major league career he pitched for nine different teams including the New York Yankees in 1989 and 1990.
LaPoint believes Blevins is a strong pitcher physically and mentally.
“With him it’s the bulldog mentality,” said LaPoint. “He doesn’t want to come out of the game. He doesn’t want to get beat. He doesn’t want to give up a hit much less a run. That’s what you look for in a starting pitcher. He’s been our workhorse the last two years. I know when I give him the ball I’m going to get seven good innings out of him.”
The veteran left-handed major league pitcher turned manager believes that Blevins does have the talent to be pitching back in the minor leagues for a major league organization, but he says that for that to happen could depend whether the right scout in the stands sees you throw your best stuff.
“It’s supply and demand,” said LaPoint about the possibility of Blevins getting signed by a major league team. “In this league it is all about the lucky day. Are you pitching good and is there a scout in the stands? That’s what you need to get to catch a break. It’s hard to predict whenever that’s going to happen. He can pitch at the Double-AA level right now and he has pitched in Triple-AAA before. If someone called I would definitely give a recommendation.”
One of the things Blevins has going for him is that his arm is very healthy and he can’t remember in being in better shape physically.
“Great, my body is in the best shape it’s been in since I don’t know how long. I’m going to keep strong and part of that offseason training is to finish the season strong,” said Blevins.
The baseball season is a marathon and not a sprint. The Boulders will play over 100 games this year. Being in top physical shape is only half the battle; a talented ballplayer needs to have a strong mental outlook if they want any hopes of going to getting to the show. Blevins seems to have a very positive perspective about his pitching and life in general.
“My dream is still alive. My goal is to be in the big leagues one day. As long as I keep playing and stay healthy and keep the desire to keep playing this game,” said Blevins. “My talent and my ability, hopefully someone will recognize it and give me a chance.”
The Can-Am League is unique in the fact that there are only a total of five teams, which can be detrimental to a starting pitcher because the hitters get to see you so often they might gain an upper hand. Blevins keeps things in perspective.
“It does make it little bit tougher on the pitcher because the hitters see you often. That’s a challenge. You have to go out there and make sure you’re precise on every pit,” said Blevins. “My job is to go to my strength early and find out what their weaknesses is right away.”
Things are going to very interesting during the last month of the season in the Can-Am League. As we go to press the Boulders are in third place with a record of 35-31. They are eight and half games behind the Quebec Capitales who have won the league championship the last few years. In second place at the moment are the New Jersey Jackals. The top two teams in the league will make the playoffs and will play each other in a multi game series to determine the league champion.
As for Blevins dreams of one day making the major leagues he knows every start he makes is vital and that you never know when that right scout will be watching.
“I assume there are scouts here every game. Our coach and skipper [LaPoint] puts in calls and stuff like that. I’m just going to take it day by day and control what I can control and that’s what I do every fifth day go out there and pitch.”
This spring Blevins took his baseball knowledge and gave back to the game that has given him so much, as he got a chance to talk to the Briarcliff High School baseball team about his experiences. Blevins believes that if high school baseball players want to follow his path that they must try to take care of their body and get proper rest.
Blevins this spring was also the pitching coach for Dominican College. Dominican finished the season with a record of 27-26 and won two games in the postseason before having their season ended by Felician College.