By SCOTT COTTOS
ARCADIA — Jerry Blevins is in his 11th season of pitching in the major leagues.
But he often thinks of days gone by as a youngster making his way through school in Arcadia.
“I watch my nephew — my brother’s son; he sends me videos of his games — or even see a random kid at a park playing catch with a friend, and I think about playing catch with my brother at 10 years old,” the New York Mets’ left-hander said. “It feels like it was a couple of years ago.”
Blevins got to watch a lot of youngsters play ball on Tuesday night as he brought his second baseball camp to Arcadia Park. A year ago, he hosted his first All-Star break camp at Fostoria’s Foundation Park.
Blevins’ older brother, Rob Ellis, who took care of much lot of the organizational work leading up to the camp, said approximately 175 boys and girls ages 8-14 took part in the camp at no cost.
“I think it was pretty successful,” Blevins said as he sat down to autograph baseballs for the youngsters at the camp’s conclusion. “Good weather, thankfully, and we were able to get through it.”
About 50 baseball and softball coaches from area high schools and the University of Findlay conducted drills at several stations on three fields as the campers hit, fielded and threw baseballs. Before the activities began, a sign on the varsity softball field’s scoreboard was revealed, naming the field for Blevins.
“You know, this is why I love baseball,” Blevins said. “As a Little Leaguer, it’s such a hard game. It’s so challenging to master it, and you never truly master it. But it’s so challenging as a youth to master the little intricacies of baseball, and seeing the life that these kids bring to the game really sparks my love for the game and I try to give back.”
The All-Star break makes for some of the very few days off ballplayers get in a regular season that lasts from April through September. As a reliever who specializes in coming out of the bullpen to face left-handed hitters, Blevins isn’t likely to be selected for the All-Star Game. So, he’s decided to give back to his home area.
“The odds of me making the All-Star Game are very slim,” he said. “If asked to participate, absolutely, it would be amazing. But this is not a bad consolation prize.”
Blevins, 33, said he enjoys returning to his roots.
“The older I get, the more I understand the connections I have and what it’s meant to me, and so I try to give back,” he said. “The older I get, the more sentimental I get, I guess, and more understanding of where I come from.”
Blevins, a standout in baseball, basketball and football at Arcadia, was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2007 — the same year he was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Oakland A’s. He then played his way through all three levels of the minor leagues before being called up to Oakland in September.
“Whenever I come, I always feel welcome and I always feel a sense of pride about being here,” Blevins said.
“My personality’s always been the same and I feel that Arcadia represents who I try to be in my personal life and in my life in general — a humble, hard-working person who has never forgotten where he comes from and always tries to treat people with respect.”
Blevins’ post-camp schedule will take him back to New York, where the Mets will open the season’s second half with a three-game home weekend series against the Colorado Rockies.
And Blevins, who has a 4-0 record with a 3.54 earned run average in 44 appearances this season, will return to a job that will always be meaningful to teams as long as left-handed pitchers who can get batters out are available.
Blevins doesn’t at all mind the relative anonymity of his role, particularly in a fishbowl like the Big Apple.
“Baseball people understand the role that I play, the significance of when I come into a ballgame,” he said. “I just don’t have to worry about the extracurriculars that come with being a starting pitcher or a star position player.”