Knowing your strengths and helping others get to know theirs are hallmarks of leadership, according to Atlanta Braves pitcher Jerry Blevins at the Nov. 22 University of Findlay Fridays at Findlay breakfast.
The Arcadia, Ohio native’s career advice was punctuated with entertaining baseball stories from his 13-year career in Major League Baseball.
Blevins admitted he’s not the best pitcher in the league. Standing at 6 feet, 6 inches, and weighing 185 pounds, the 36-year-old’s fastball clocks in at under 90 miles per hour. In comparison, Cardinals reliever Jordon Hicks has recorded his at 105 miles per hour, which matches Aroldis Chapman’s. Instead, Blevins’ talents lie within his varied pitching repertoire, his ability to analyze hitters’ expectations, and his teamwork philosophy. They are skills that have been cultivated since he recognized his deep affinity for baseball while practicing first-base basics with his older, star-athlete brother in high school, he said.
From a personal standpoint, Blevins said he now has enough self-confidence to recognize his strengths and weaknesses, and use both his advantage. “One thing that’s allowed me to play in this game as long as I have is that I share knowledge with other players and I get knowledge from other guys,” he said.
“Baseball just brings joy for me. I’ve always had a knack for the fluidity of baseball,” Blevins continued. It’s a talent that has helped him cultivate relationships with other players, and that has helped him improve as well. “A rookie’s pitch may have a spin rate of 97 or 99, but he doesn’t know how to pitch yet. I’m able to slow the game down. I’m prepared. I know what I do best. I get into a chess match with the hitters” that analyzes their every move to help him determine the best pitch to deliver, he said.
On and off the mound, Blevins has also learned the psychology of leadership enough to implement it to his and others’ advantage. “Your brain doesn’t understand positive and negative,” he told breakfast guests, many of whom were high school and UF baseball players. “Your brain only hears what you tell yourself. So, whatever you want to do, think about that. Think in positive terms,” he suggested.
Unlike today’s game of baseball, which heavily relies upon statistics and other data to win games, such leadership skills, Blevins pointed out, cannot be quantified. Instead, they’re interpersonal assets that are necessary for a team environment. Blevins used the 2019 World Series winners the Washington Nationals as an example. The Nationals “started out really poorly,” but found ways to bond, including by adopting the “Baby Shark” song as their team anthem. “Something about the way they played together really pushed them forward,” Blevins said.
“The best part about being a pitcher is the group that’s beside you,” said Blevins.
And then, there are also the weird parts about baseball. Blevins was asked about the role superstitions play in the game. “We don’t call them superstitions. We call them routines,” he joked. Blevins own quirk: he’ll shower in the same shower every time until he plays poorly, he said. Others have preferences about equipment use, food consumption, and even washing (or not washing) gear.
This semester’s final Fridays at Findlay session, featuring Sue Young ’07, animal behavior and enrichment manager for Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park, will be Dec. 6.