Jefferson P. Nolan
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Casey Bloomquist can’t stop fidgeting.
Whenever the Cal Poly starting pitcher takes the mound, the right-hander is on the move.
Even as the sophomore sat down for an interview with Mustang News, Bloomquist shifted to the left, then right, wiping his sweat-stained brow and tapping his foot on the Mustangs’ dugout floor.
“I don’t even notice it, honestly,” Bloomquist said. “I’ve always been just a fidgety guy. I always have to be moving. I guess that translates to being on the mound. I’ve always got to be moving and doing something.”
He’s not nervous, and he’s not antsy — it’s simply who he is.
After concluding the 2014 regular season with a team-best 12-1 win-loss record and earning a team-leading 1.60 ERA, Bloomquist is not showing any signs of slowing down.
Last season, in his inaugural year on the baseball team, the right-hander accumulated a 6-2 record with a 5.02 ERA.
But according to pitching coach Thomas Eager, while Bloomquist did his “job” as a pitcher in his freshman season, he wanted something more from the righty.
In a fall preseason game, Eager and head coach Larry Lee decided to give the ball to freshman Slater Lee instead of Bloomquist.
“I wanted more out of him,” Eager said. “Back then, he wasn’t pitching to what I thought was his full potential. We tried to light a fire … We wanted to let him know that he wasn’t there yet, and that there was still more in the tank.”
After Bloomquist lost his start that day, an evolution began.
Bloomquist is not the hardest thrower in college baseball. In fact, he’s far from it. On a good day, the sophomore will hit 91 mph on the radar gun. But he realized he didn’t need to blow the ball by hitters to be successful.
Sitting at a comfortable 87-88 mph, Bloomquist has developed a lethal slider and honed a unique, sinking fastball designed to throw opposing hitters off-balance.
Known as one of the most-liked players on the team, the Bakersfield, Calif. native began to embrace a new persona on the mound as well — an attitude that contrasted with his happy-go-lucky demeanor off the field.
“I tell the pitchers that when they go out and take the field, they can be anybody they want to be,” Eager said. “When he goes out to pitch, he goes out there to dominate the game. (Bloomquist) definitely has a split personality when he’s able to be who he is off the field, and when he’s able to channel what he needs to be on the mound. Now he really believes that his stuff is better than any other team that he faces.”
But ask Bloomquist how he approaches each start, and he’ll say he’s just out there having fun.
“I’m a big believer that you create your own pressure and put it on yourself,” Bloomquist said. “It could be a little league game, a high school baseball game or a professional game … it is what you make it. Just going out and having fun is what it is all about.”
And according to Bloomquist, his success and that of the No. 5 Cal Poly baseball team can be attributed to the close bond shared by his teammates.
“We just all get along so well,” Bloomquist said. “We can say anything to each other and just brush it off and we’ll still be best friends at the end of the day.”
More specifically, the various personalities that make up the team keep the game fun for Bloomquist. Labeled as a “redneck” along with fellow pitcher Bryan Granger because of their frequent duck-hunting expeditions, the team has comprised a list of players who fit different roles off the field.
“He’s just such a genuine guy,” Granger said of Bloomquist. “He’s the guy that you would want your daughter to date. You can tell that over the summer, he’s grown up a lot as a pitcher and as a person.”
Oftentimes, Granger, Eager and the pitching staff are entertained watching Bloomquist fidgeting on the bump.
“It’s a joke watching him in the dugout,” Eager said. “Reed Reilly, Granger, and I will be sitting on one end of the dugout, and one of us will say, ‘Hey, look at Bloomy right now.’ He’s just moving constantly. He jokes along because he knows it too. It is who he is, and you’ve got to love the kid. He’s been phenomenal.”
But after a 12-win regular season, Bloomquist’s constant movement has an almost soothing effect on his team and the crowd at Baggett Stadium. The coaching staff can’t wait to give the sophomore the ball, and, going into the NCAA Tournament, the Cal Poly baseball team will look to Bloomquist to keep its record-breaking season afloat.
“Bloomquist has been our most consistent pitcher through the majority of the season,” head coach Larry Lee said. “When he’s on the mound, he’s fidgety; when he’s off the field, he’s a country hick. He’s very respectful of his coaches, his teammates and the game, and while he jokes around, he is able to focus and dial in with his idiosyncrasies on the mound.”