For some people, the roots of where their craft began become lost and forgotten over time.
Not for the Bleday brothers.
Former Titusville High School baseball players and current professionals Adam and JJ Bleday returned to town this weekend and provided much more than instruction on how to play the game. They also gave local ballplayers a lasting impression that they can accomplish anything, as long as the work and dedication is there.
Saturday’s camp at the Ed Myer Complex was a continuation of what Adam had started last year in November, when he held a similar camp. The former Houston Astros pitching farmhand and current coach in the Baltimore Orioles organization was thrilled to be able to come back to town again.
“It means a lot (to come back),” said Adam, a 2013 graduate of Titusville High School. “We had a great time last year doing this. I was just happy we could arrange it this year, and get a nice turn out for kids. It means a lot just giving back to the community, and getting these kids pumped up for baseball and honing some of their skills.”
The more than 60 players from Titusville and across northwestern Pennsylvania that participated in Saturday’s clinic were given instruction in all facets of the game. But, they were also given genuine words of encouragement that were spoken from two professionals that truly wanted to see the kids improve and enjoy playing the game. With every swing that was taken or every play in the field that was made, a “There you go!” or “That-a-boy!,” soon after followed along with a fist-bump and smile from the two local stars.
JJ, the fourth pick overall in the 2019 Major League Baseball first-year player draft and current Miami Marlins outfield prospect, was unable to attend last year’s camp, but had been waiting for the opportunity to get the chance to give back to the Titusville community.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a full year because Adam did it on my birthday last year,” said JJ, who spent the first two seasons of his high school career in the Brown and Gold. “It means a lot (to come back) because growing up here, you don’t have a lot of resources and knowledge on the game. It’s good to give that back and show guys that there’s a lot more than just doing this and doing that. There are finer details in the game, and if you can recognize that and train that on a daily basis, you’re going to be good and have a chance for success. I think that’s what was good about coming back here; telling them what I have learned, having fun with it and just trying to get them better.”
Adam, naturally, worked with pitchers in side sessions on the mound. The focus, according to Adam, was on “healthy body movements in the pitching motion to promote efficient quality rotation” and “pounding the strike zone.” Meanwhile, JJ was given instruction on fielding and baserunning. Multiple drills were being conducted around the diamond, thanks to the help of Titusville’s Mike Canter, Adam Huck, Uriah Sampson and Roy Schweitzer, along with Seneca High School coach Jim Koper. The day continued with hitting instruction at the batting cages from both brothers with the focus of being on timing.
It wasn’t just the kids that had things to take away from the day. The Titusville Rockets coaching staff, and coaches from others areas in attendance, were able to acquire new drills to run and new information to share with their players. It was something that Rockets head coach Schweitzer really was grateful about the day.
“To come in here and give up their entire weekend, not only for our program but for others in District 10, is just phenomenal,” Schweitzer said of the Bleday brothers. “They care and want to make baseball not just good in this area, but the best it can be. It speaks volumes of who they are as people. They’re just awesome human beings and it’s too bad we can’t have more gentlemen like them. We’re proud of them. They’re a part of us, and we’re happy to be in that type of circle that they’re willing to help our program out.”
At the end of the day, Adam and JJ fielded questions in an open Q&A session with players, coaches and parents. In their final addresses to the players, the message was simple, “You can do anything you want.”
“The world does not care where you come from,” JJ said. “At the end of the day, it’s who takes pride in what they love and what they want to do and what they want to be. You really have to believe in it, put in the effort and make sure, not that no one’s out-working you, but that you’re putting in enough effort to get where you want to be and have an opportunity. Always be committed and ready for an opportunity.”
Now two years into running their clinics in Titusville, the Bleday brothers are hoping to keep it going again next year. Their desire is to stretch the camp into two days in order to be even more thorough with each group of kids.