When Jerry Blevins initially looked at the University of Dayton with a high school friend and future collegiate roommate, he thought law school was in his future after learning the university had one.
Thankfully for his future employers, the baseball team was holding tryouts after he arrived on campus.
“When I chose Dayton, my first year there I saw they had open baseball tryouts and had put a flier out,” he said. “I decided to do it and I made it.”
Blevins now is a relief pitcher for the Oakland A’s, which also happened to be his favorite team growing up as a youngster. He credits the 1990 World Series between the A’s and Cincinnati Reds as the start of his fandom.
He walked-on to the Dayton baseball team in 2002 and pitched for two seasons under head coach Tony Vittorio, who he still talks to on a regular basis.
Blevins became the first Dayton alum to play in the majors since Garry Roggenburk pitched his final year in 1969 for the Seattle Pilots, the first season of what is now the Milwaukee Brewers franchise.
Blevins was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 17th round of the 2004 Rule Four Amateur Draft. He said his parents informed him of the news.
“I was in Columbus getting ready to travel for a summer league team, the Columbus All-Americans, and I got a phone call from my parents saying that my name was called in the draft,” he said. “It was definitely one of those moments you’ll never forget.”
In three years with the organization, he advanced from low-A Boise to double-A Tennessee before being traded to the A’s in 2007. Blevins said he credits the trade to reaching where he is today.
“It was a little bittersweet,” he said of being traded. “You come up with a group of guys in an organization … so you have a lot of people you consider brothers. It’s worked out for me in the long run. It’s probably the best move for my career for me to come to Oakland, and I’m definitely grateful.”
He would also pitch at double-A for the A’s, until he was called up to the majors on Sept. 15, 2007. He would make his debut the next night against the Texas Rangers, pitching the ninth inning where he would retire the side. In the outing, he threw his first career strikeout in his first at-bat against Rangers’ outfielder David Murphy, which Blevins said was the “icing on the cake for a first outing.” He said Murphy today is one of his best friends.
The next season, he began in triple-A Sacramento, and would continue to move up and down between the minors and majors until 2012, when he remained on Oakland’s roster for the entire season.
Blevins owns a career 8-6 record with a 3.35 ERA in 214 appearances. In 2012, he had a career season, finishing with a 2.48 ERA in 65.1 IP. He would pitch in the postseason for the first time during the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers, entering three games and allowing only a single hit and no runs in 3.2 innings pitched.
Blevins was inducted into the Arcadia (Ohio) High School Hall of Fame in 2007, shortly after being promoted to the majors. During baseball season, he stays in the Bay Area, but calls Findlay, Ohio, home during the offseason.
Not being particularly close to a city where a major-league team plays, the choices for a family visit during the year are slim. When the A’s travel to face the Reds at Great American Ball Park, on Aug. 6 and Aug. 7, plans already have been made for that to change.
“The most excited I’m looking forward to is getting to play in Cincinnati this year,” Blevins said. “I’m going to get the chance to play in front of friends and family, and it’s about as close to what I can call a hometown. It’s been circled on a lot of people’s calendars for when they need to make room. That’ll be a fun trip.”
The feeling of being a part of a community is one of the things that sticks out to Blevins the most about his time at UD. He said he gained a feeling of pride and unity from being at UD and thought the level of friendliness everyone showed helped shape him today.
“I think it had a tremendous effect on me, not just through baseball and coach Vittorio,” he said. “The classes and all the professors that I had were all really helpful. You know, it’s an influential time in your life in late teens and early 20s in trying to figure out who it is that you are, and being around a lot of positive people, that always helps mold you.”
A former resident of Lowes Street, which Blevins called incredible during Lowes Fest, he remembers Christmas on Campus being his favorite activity at Dayton, and one he wishes he could come back to sometime.
“I like how everyone comes together to make it special for the entire community in the surrounding area,” he said. “I have a lot of people that I miss with my family being gone 9 or 10 months out of the year, which makes it hard to justify leaving for Christmas as well. It’s definitely something I feel like I want to come back to and always will hold a great place in my heart.”
On Jan. 23, Blevins did get to return to Dayton, though, as he made a donation to the UD baseball program and attended the UD men’s basketball game against Fordham University at UD Arena.
He said it still feels like only yesterday that he was a student, despite the campus having some visual changes, noting that ArtStreet was newly built and the baseball team still played its game at the old Stuart Field in his third year.
Despite leaving school early after being drafted, Blevins said he loves where his life has taken him.
“I get to do something that I love everyday and make a living off of it,” Blevins said. “A lot of people don’t get to do that, and I understand how hard of a daily grind it would be otherwise. I realize my window for being an athlete is short, as obviously you can’t do it forever, but I’m trying to take advantage of getting to go outside and play catch every day. It’s pretty spectacular.”
Blevins said his original plan in coming to UD was to earn a finance degree before heading to law school. Reflecting back if he had to make the choice again, Blevins didn’t hesitate in his answer.
“Yeah, I would definitely not go into law,” he said. “The further I get away from school, the more I understand. I’m kind of happy it didn’t work out for me.”