Stanford Baseball Feature - Jeremy Bleich
Feb. 19, 2006
by Kyle McRae
Things have always looked to come pretty easy to Jeremy Bleich and the first two weeks of his collegiate baseball career at Stanford have appeared no different. The freshman southpaw has been up to the challenge from the opening pitch, appearing in four of Stanford's first six games with a pair of saves and a victory while not allowing a run and giving up just three hits in his first 7.1 innings on the mound.
That's arguably the easiest thing the lifelong native of the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, Louisiana, has done in the past six months since Hurricane Katrina hit The Big Easy on August 29 of last year.
Bleich was in Georgia playing in a series of exhibition games with the USA Junior National Team when Katrina began to approach the New Orleans area last August. Not only was his hometown in imminent danger, Bleich also received more difficult news the same week when he learned that his grandfather was very sick.
Still, Bleich decided to push on and continue with a schedule that had the Americans traveling to Mexico in early September after their late-August exhibition slate.
'My father let me make the decision but assured me that my grandfather would have wanted me to play,' he recalled about a conversation he had with his dad during a visit in Atlanta the Wednesday before Katrina hit. 'As for New Orleans, there was nothing we could really do at that point.'
Bleich's grandfather, who kept a USA Baseball hat in his possession, passed away the following day and by early Monday morning New Orleans was being ravaged.
'My dad told me to represent New Orleans, Louisiana and the United States,' Bleich remembered.
He did just that by dominating opponents in his three relief outings with the Americans, not allowing a run and giving up just two hits while striking out nine in 7.0 scoreless innings.
After his USA Junior National squad finished up its 2005 summer schedule on September 11, Bleich headed to Long Island, New York for about a week to spend time with family members in his grandfather's hometown.
Bleich came straight to Stanford from New York and immediately had to adjust to a new environment while still worrying about the effects the recent life events had on his family.
'We all had to pick each other up,' said Bleich about the telephone conversations he had with his parents. 'But, they told me there was no reason for me to be down, because I was in a perfect environment at Stanford.'
Bleich was finding out for himself that he was indeed in a pretty good environment with his new baseball family, as well as his adopted Stanford community.
'We have great chemistry on this team,' said Bleich. 'As for this community, everyone at Stanford is here for a reason. They all excel at what they are here for. I enjoy meeting people who are at Stanford for a wide variety of different reasons.'
Not only was Bleich admiring his teammates and fellow students for their achievements, he was crediting them for helping him make the transition to a time in his life when much of what he had always known was so radically changed.
'Being at a place like Stanford definitely made the transition a little easier,' said Bleich. 'It obviously didn't take care of everything, but it helped to have a group of guys like we have in our locker room and a coaching staff that really cared. When you live somewhere your whole life and then have something happen like it did, that's a pretty difficult experience.'
'But I definitely decided that I wasn't going to back down,' he continued. 'It's not my personality.'
If the way he has handled the difficult events of the past few months is an indication of his personality, everything else should seem like The Big Easy.
He sure has made it look that way so far.