A few weeks ago, Adam Bleday was preparing for the start of classes at Florida State University when he received a call from an old boss that would change the trajectory of the 2013 Titusville High School graduate’s upcoming summer.
Bleday, who spent the past few years playing professional baseball, put his love for the game aside when disaster struck his current home, Panama City, Florida, in October when Hurricane Michael made landfall as a destructive Category 4 hurricane. With maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour and peak storm surge from 9 to 14 feet, according to weather.gov, the cyclone caused catastrophic damage across the Florida panhandle.
With the southpaw seeing the obvious need for the restoration of his community after the storm, the 24-year-old was ready to act and help repair the damage. Bleday, who already is an Ivy League graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, applied for and was accepted into Florida State University’s civil engineering program.
“We got hit with [Michael] and there was so much damage throughout the whole area,” Bleday said. “I thought if I could utilize that degree and work up through the construction industry here, things would work out. I don’t know. I was kind of taking a leap of faith. I don’t think that’s my fit at all, but I just didn’t know what to do. I probably wasn’t 100 percent into that because a hurricane shouldn’t dictate [your career path], but you’re kind of in survival mode after that. I saw it as an opportunity because there was going to be years and years of work here, but I didn’t want to do that. It’s just not my thing.”
As many in the Titusville area know, Bleday’s “thing” has been the game of baseball. Taken in the 27th round of the 2017 MLB Draft, the 5-foot, 11-inch left-hander pitched parts of the 2017 and 2018 season across four levels the Houston Astros minor league ladder. After being released by the Astros on July 10, 2018, Bleday latched on with the Kansas City T-Bones, an Independent League team in the American Association — where he finished out the 2018 season with the league champions.
On the eve of the beginning of classes, Bleday received a phone call from one of his former coaches during his time in the Houston Astros organization, Chris Holt, that would give him a chance to get back into Major League affiliated baseball.
Holt, who was the Minor League Pitching Coordinator when Bleday was a pitcher in the Astros organization over the past two years, offered Bleday a coaching position in the Baltimore Orioles organization. Holt and other members of the Astros front office during the 2018 season joined the Orioles hierarchy this offseason during an organizational overhaul, which included the hire of new Orioles General Manager Mike Elias.
Bleday and Elias became familiar with each other during the end of the summer of 2018. After his release from the Astros’ Class A-Advanced affiliate in July, Bleday applied for a position in the Astros front office. Although he learned in September that he didn’t get the job, the connections that Bleday made over his two years in the Astros organization proved down the road to be essential to his future.
In a turn of events that Bleday described as a “blessing,” Holt offered the Titusville native an avenue back in professional baseball as the Developmental Coach of the Frederick Keys, the Class A-Advanced Minor League affiliate of the Orioles.
“I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to stay in baseball and hopefully progress up the ladder and just get really good at my job,” Bleday said. “Not a lot of 24-year-olds get these kinds of opportunities.”
Come the start of April, Bleday will be part of a four-man coaching staff for the Keys, who play their home Carolina League games in Frederick, Maryland. The staff also features former major leaguers Manager Ryan Minor and Hitting Coach Bobby Rose, along with Pitching Coach Justin Lord. Bleday’s role on the team will be focused on helping the Orioles players use analytics to improve their performance on the field.
“In a sense, I’m going to be a mediator,” Bleday said. “I’m going to be doing a lot of the data input. From my experience playing, the fourth coach is basically a helper. In my situation, I’m going to be a little more involved because of how far the Orioles are behind with analytics. I’m going into it with an open mind, but an expectation would be to help improve the overall statistics of some of these guys. Strikeouts were a huge thing with the Astros and we’re going to implement the same things with the Orioles. That’s what pays at the big league level. It’s the most valuable thing you can contribute as a pitcher.”
On Sunday, Bleday will report to spring training just the like last few seasons. However, this will be the first time as a coach. Making the transition from a player to coach has proven to be difficult for some, but Bleday is up for the challenge.
“I think there’s going to be somethings that are going to be a learning curve for sure,” Bleday said. “[However], I think it’s going to be easier transitioning from a player to a coach because a coach is around the players all of the time and vice versa. We know what’s expected and the daily routine. I don’t foresee it being a huge learning curve but at the same time I want to be good at my job. I’m definitely open to taking in all of the advice that I can and helping the players become the best that they can in the most efficient way.”
Bleday’s new journey will begin in Sarasota, Florida – the spring training home for the Orioles. He’ll spend the upcoming weeks in Baltimore’s minor league portions of the complex surrounding Ed Smith Stadium before breaking camp for Frederick near the end of March. The Keys play their first regular season game of the 2019 campaign on April 4, as Frederick hosts the Winston-Salem Dash.
“I can’t stress enough how blessed I am,” Bleday said. “I was literally ready to go back to engineering school, but now I’m back in the game that I love. Things fall into place like that sometimes, and I’m just blessed and fortunate to have this opportunity.”