When the Yankee set out last winter to replace Larry Rothschild, their longtime pitching coach who skewed old-school in his coaching style, they interviewed two college coaches. But Blake, 35, the Cleveland Indians’ director of pitching development, set himself apart with his résumé and ideas.
In 2016, he jumped from baseball’s private sector — he was the pitching coordinator at Cressey Sports Performance — to Cleveland. There, he became an important piece of their envied pitching factory, helping develop standouts like Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac, until the Yankees lured him away in November. Blake is now one of four pitching coaches in the major leagues without professional playing experience.
Sitting in an office at the Yankees’ spring training facility in Tampa, Fla., before the pandemic struck, Blake acknowledged that it had been a wild journey from leaving his sales job to setting up his own pitching instruction business to becoming a sought-after pitching guru who landed with the Yankees.
“But on the other hand, every step made sense,” he said. He developed a unique skill set, he said, that combined an understanding of the movement of the body, video analysis, analytics, pitching strategies and strength and conditioning.
In other words, Blake became the epitome of a modern pitching coach. He grew up understanding the needs of the contemporary pitcher, from using weighted balls to high-tech cameras. In Cleveland, he was known for his ability to translate advanced data into usable instruction.
“He’s extremely intellectual in regards to baseball, pitching, people and personalities,” Bieber, the leading contender for the 2020 American League Cy Young Award, said earlier this year. “We loved having him here.”