A typical day for Pittsburgh Pirates staffer Jeremy Bleich often includes situations that could seem as if they are from a “This is SportsCenter” ad or an office-supply store commercial.
“(Players) will walk in, and I’m, like, trying to get documents ready for the 7 o’clock game — and I’m sitting at my desk with (uniform) pants and spikes on,” Bleich said during a video conference call with media Sunday.
“It’s like ‘What the heck is going on?’ ”
A veteran of two MLB games and 180 in the minors as a left-handed pitcher, Bleich is something of a number-cruncher with a “desk job” for the Pirates. But at 33 years old and less than two years removed from pitching professionally, Bleich can say something for 2021 that none of the Pirates players he works with can say.
He’s on the roster of a team for the Olympic Games.
Eligible to compete for Team Israel in the Tokyo Games later this summer, Bleich is keeping his arm sharp for competing on the world’s biggest stage for what figures to be his final competitive action in the sport he’s excelled at since youth.
“As we get closer (to the July 23 scheduled opening ceremonies), it’s becoming more tangible and the excitement is on the rise,” Bleich said.
Tonight, Pirates’ Major League Staff Assistant Jeremy Bleich toed the rubber to get some reps in…
Summer Camp is wild and there are no rules.
(we love it.) pic.twitter.com/HvD2WOtfN1
— Pirates (@Pirates) July 22, 2020
Pirates manager Derek Shelton described himself as “super stoked” to have a staff member to be pitching in the Olympics for Israel, saying Bleich told him Bleich’s grandparents are Holocaust survivors. When hired by the Pirates last year, Bleich sought pre-approval from general manager Ben Cherington and the organization that he be allowed to pursue his Olympic dreams.
“Ben and ‘Sheltie’ have been really supportive of the (preparations for the Olympics) and me getting kind of what I need,” Bleich said, “and that has trickled down throughout the entire staff. The strength staff, the training staff (are) pretty regularly just telling me, ‘Hey, get whatever you need.’ ”
That’s led to busy days where Bleich will get a workout in in the morning and squeeze some throwing in whenever, all while performing his “day job” duties as something of a hybrid advance scout and analytics whiz.
The fact Bleich has pitched in the majors and will pitch in the Olympics brings him some extra credibility with a roster that perhaps otherwise might have some skeptical players weary of a mere pencil-pusher stathead trying to tell them where to line up.
“Very rarely do you have a guy that pitched in the big leagues that works as an analyst on your staff,” Shelton said. “He’s a really bright guy. If you spend any time with him, funny dude, really cool sense of humor.”
— Jeremy Bleich (@j_bleich) March 6, 2017
During his first season with the Pirates in 2020, Bleich described his primary responsibilities as working with the positioning and shifting of the defense to cover the ideal spots against each individual opposing batter. This is done, in part, by combining tendencies gleaned from old-fashioned advance scouting and from the deluge of information and statistics available.
Bleich has the ear of the on-field staff, with coaches and the “infomatics” group sharing what they see and discussing it. And Bleich is often a conduit speaking directly to — and hearing directly from — the players.
“We have a great system in place. Our infomatics group is incredible,” Bleich said. “They have supported me, and that’s been a part of my learning that has been huge, learning that part of the game. And I try to marry that with my experience and my understanding for what players are going through, for what they may be feeling in a certain moment, and the information is only as good as the vehicle for delivery.
“Like, if your information is great but your vehicle isn’t efficient, then it’s just no gonna get there — or the information isn’t relayed correctly. So that’s what I try to be, is that vehicle for delivery.”
Pirates/MLB | Sports