07/26/2015 10:38 AM
Blake Holovach was one of Kansas City's most consistent pitchers this season, but he decided to go back to school to pursue his degree. (File photo by John Ellis.)
By TAYLOR WORTHINGTON
Making the choice to hang up the spikes and say goodbye to the game of baseball is never a choice taken lightly by players of any age. T-Bones starting pitcher Blake Holovach struggled with that in recent weeks. Ultimately, he decided it was time, as he made his final start Saturday night.
“Leaving the game isn’t going to be easy,” he said earlier this week. “I’ve always loved it and I always will.”
Originally born in Wichita, Kan., Holovach has been around baseball at every level throughout his entire life, as a fan and as a player. That includes growing up in the Kansas City area and going to T-Bones games before this season.
“My friends and I lived about 20 minutes from [CommunityAmerica Ballpark], so I had been to a handful of games,” he said. “If I were going to play for any independent league team, it was going to be right here in Kansas City. The [Wichita] Wingnuts were a close second, but something just felt right about the T-Bones organization.”
So, Holovach signed with the T-Bones in April, after spending the majority of last season at single-A in the Seattle Mariners’ organization.
This season Holovach has been one of Kansas City’s best pitchers. Heading into Saturday night’s start, he was 5-1 with a 3.17 ERA and 31 strikeouts.
Holovach has not always been on the mound, as he started in outfield during his high school years at Blue Valley West high school.
“The only three college offers I received were for pitching because I struggled as a hitter. I was 6-3 at the time and batted .165,” said Holovach. “I knew that I wanted to keep playing the game, so I decided to attend Coffeyville Community College and try out pitching.”
It appeared early at Coffeyville that pitching might not be the answer, either.
“I actually didn’t take to pitching very well at all at first,” he said. “I struggled from the mound, but the more experience I put under my belt, the better I became.”
Holovach had always had aspirations to make it to Division-I ball, and he ran into a bit of luck that made that dream into a reality. His head coach at Coffeyville at the time was close friends with a Washington Nationals scout, who was at one of Coffeyville’s games watching one of their catchers. Holovach was throwing in the bullpen to the catcher being watched at the time, and the scout took notice. The next year, the Nationals scout took the head recruiter job at the University of Missouri, and asked Holovach’s coach about the young left-hander.
“Mizzou ended up being the only D1 offer I received, but I wasn’t complaining,” he said. “Playing in division one was all I wanted to do, and despite being a Kansas Jayhawks fan growing up, I would’ve gone anywhere.”
Holovach found success at Mizzou, as his team won the last Big 12 championship Mizzou competed in before going to the Southeastern Conference.
“My fondest memory of the game will always be that year with that team,” said Holovach. “My favorite memory of any team I’ve ever been on will always be the guys; that’s what I’ll miss the most.”
But, in spite of that, Holovach felt now was the right time to walk away. He plans to return to the University of Missouri and work toward finishing his degree and becoming a physical therapist.
“I think I’m just ready for the next chapter in my life,” he said.