Giants Pitcher Finds Joy On and Off the Diamond
An interview with San Francisco Giants’ Opening Day starter Ty Blach.
At Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colorado, Ty Blach was encouraged to live a Christian spirit of charity by being “a man for others.” He has taken this way of life with him through his years at Creighton University, the minor leagues and now in the majors.
A 6-1 lefthander, Blach made his Major League debut Sept. 5, 2016, with the San Francisco Giants and was the team’s starting pitcher on Opening Day. Blach, who currently owns a 3-5 record, is extremely grateful to be a part of the Giants, who have won three World Series titles since 2010.
Blach is even more grateful to be a part of the Catholic Church. He recently spoke of his lifelong Catholicism and the opportunities he has to live it out, including through Catholic Athletes for Christ.
Why, of all sports, have you found baseball to be the one you excel at?
When I was younger, I played different sports, but baseball was my first love. There’s something about playing outside, throwing a ball around and just the overall atmosphere of being at a baseball stadium that I’ve always found to be appealing.
Every sport has an athletic and a mental component, but I think that the mental aspect of baseball is unique. It creates a multifaceted challenge to compete and succeed. Baseball players not only have to perform physically, but also understand how to deal with almost daily failure and other challenges that are not present in the same degree in other sports.
Do you find that being with the Giants, who’ve had plenty of success in the recent past, has been particularly helpful in getting better?
Absolutely. The Giants have won three World Series titles since 2010, and they still have an organizational focus on winning. There are still players who’ve won it all on this year’s roster, and they’ve been very helpful to me. They’ve taught me things they’ve learned against certain players, in certain stadiums or in “big” games that I would not have otherwise known.
Being part of the Giants organization has helped me grow a lot as a player and as a person. I’ve been helped by so many people through my journey from little leagues, to high school, through college, to the minor leagues and now the majors. I know there is always going to be more to learn, and I can’t think of a better organization suited to teach me right now.
Can you think of a lesson you’ve learned that may be surprising to collegiate or high-school players?
There is a lot of focus on the simple things, such as keeping a positive mindset, but there are a few unexpected lessons that have helped me grow as a pitcher. One example is that even if you can’t throw really hard, you can still succeed. Someone who throws quality pitches and disrupts a hitter’s timing and leverage can be just as successful as someone who throws 100 miles per hour.
Creating contact with the bat and letting the defense make plays is a great way to pitch. This way of pitching may not be as glamourous to some people, but it can be just as effective. I actually had a motto in high school when I played tennis that sums up this philosophy well: “Hit it in and you will win.” In tennis, baseball and other areas of life, sometimes being “boring” can be the best thing.
I do remember Mario Ancic, since he was still playing professionally when I was playing in high school, but I don’t follow tennis enough today to know the other players. One of my favorites has been Roger Federer. Everyone knows Roger Federer, even if they don’t follow tennis closely. I admire his dominance and durability. He played so well and continues to play well at this stage in his career.
Have you always taken the Catholic faith seriously, or was there a specific time you started to do so?
I’ve always taken it seriously, but in the last two years I think maybe even more so. My father was one of nine children, and he and my mom raised me and my sister to be practicing Catholics. Church has always been a big part of our lives.
At Regis Jesuit High School the concept of being “a man for others” was instilled in me. Following Jesus’ example, we learned to put the needs of others in front of our own. Although it can be difficult not to put ourselves first at times, I’ve learned that we can find joy when we put Jesus and others first.
This ideal of being a man for others continued when I went to Creighton University and played baseball there. The concept was explained further in a great little book I was given by Bob and Joan Lozinak, owners of the Altoona Curve, the Pirates’ AA team I competed against in 2014. My Daily Bread from the Confraternity of the Precious Blood is a thought-provoking book about being humble and trusting completely in Jesus. This is a great challenge, but the reward is consistent joy, since outside events do not affect the connection of a faithful man with the Lord.
The Lozinaks are special people. Even though I was competing against their team, they knew the deeper importance of being Catholic. That, more than baseball, explains our relationship. One day, they picked me up from the team hotel and drove me to the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona and to some other unique Catholic sites in the area. It was a day with a couple of special people I will never forget.
Do you have a favorite book outside of My Daily Bread?
You could probably say my favorite Catholic book overall is the Bible. I like to study different books of the Bible at different times, but Proverbs and Romans are among my favorites. Proverbs has a lot of useful teachings for anyone, and Romans has more specific, refined messages in light of the coming of Christ. I’m just starting to look into the Navarre Bible commentaries, so hopefully those will shed light on Roman, Proverbs and the other books.
There are many men in the majors who love to study the word of God. In fact, I expected the talent and skill that’s here, but I did not expect the character that’s here. I’m impressed by how many genuinely good men there are. They aren’t all Catholic, but Ray McKenna makes sure to go out of his way to ensure the Catholic players have a place to go. Ray is the head of Catholic Athletes for Christ, a group that strives to be a Catholic presence in the majors.
Did you go to the Catholic Athletes for Christ retreat last year?
I was getting married the same week the retreat occurred, so I wasn’t able to go. However, I had already gotten a Vin Scully Rosary CD album in spring training of 2017. That got me started in a routine of praying the Rosary every day during Lent. Those CDs are very cool; they mix Catholicism with baseball — a mixture that pretty much describes my life right now — so they are much appreciated. I’d recommend them to any baseball player or fan. The Rosary is a powerful tool to let go of anxiety and focus your thoughts on the good things in life.
Are you expecting any future baseball players in your family yet?
No not yet, but we are open and excited to having children in God’s time. I do look forward to playing catch with my kids when that day comes. I have fond memories of playing baseball with my father growing up, and it created a special bond. I hope that baseball can bring a similar bond between me and my kids someday.
One thing I do know for sure is that I’m in the right place spiritually. The Catholic understanding of marriage is the most comprehensive one around, as my wife, Nikki, and I learned through our Catholic marriage-prep classes. The Church sees marriage as a lifetime commitment. That enduring unity creates an environment ideal for raising children. I am blessed to have Nikki as my wife and cannot wait to see what God has in store for our family.
Do you have a patron saint?
Michael is my middle name, and St. Michael the Archangel is a great example and intercessor for people who compete on a regular basis. I also feel a strong connection to St. Mark, since I lost a friend in third grade named Mark. He was sick and passed away almost 20 years ago, but his memory lives on. St. Mark was also my chosen saint for confirmation, and I still like his Gospel, so his memory lives on in my life, too.
Register correspondent Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.
His book Fit for Heaven (Dynamic Catholic, 2015),
contains numerous Catholic sports interviews,
most of which have appeared in the Register.
His latest book is Apostolic Athletes.