Strike 3 Foundation

The Strike 3 Foundation heightens awareness, mobilizes support, and raises funding for childhood cancer research.

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NECBL Alum Breslow is Vital Piece of BoSox; Community

It would have been too easy for Craig Breslow to give up.  To mail it in.

It was May 2009 and Breslow had just been waived by a Big League club for the third time- not counting the time he was released five years earlier.  He had posted a 6.28 ERA in 17 forgettable games for the Minnesota Twins.

This was the fourth instance where Breslow was being told, in the harshest terms possible, that an organization didn’t think he could contribute to a Major League team.

Besides, Breslow didn’t need baseball.  Remember the scene in Jim Dent’s, The Junction Boys, when Bear Bryant is trying to run off the runt Dennis Goehring? Goehring needed to keep his football career alive; quitting Bryant’s Texas A&M football team meant returning to his dead-end Texas town with shame and no future.

A biochemistry major at Yale, Breslow already had a medical school acceptance when the Brewers’ drafted him in the 26th round in 2002.  This man had ample career options.

"Getting released for the first time was certainly the low point, " recalled Breslow, now an integral part of the Red Sox bullpen, "given that it was the first time somebody had told me I wasn’t good enough to do something.  Little did I know that that would become a theme!"  

Craig Breslow did not need baseball.  But the southpaw still believed in his abilities.

"But whenever I talk about that experience, I think the most important thing that I can urge anyone to do is to be honest with themselves.  It is certainly admirable when people are so committed to something that they will exhaust every avenue," continued Breslow, "but at the same time, I always felt that there was nothing wrong with not being good enough to play in the Big Leagues.  I would much rather have moved on to something I could excel in rather than toil in the Minor Leagues until I was 40 years old.  

"Honesty is the most important thing that you can have at that point.  I looked at myself in the mirror and I felt like I still had something to offer this game.  

"Fortunately, I was right.  But there was certainly the chance that I wasn’t."

Lefty Breslow was very right.  Snatched up the Oakland Athletics when the Twins waived him, Breslow would rank second in the American League in appearances for 2009 and 2010- both years where he would post a sub-3.40 ERA.

The 1999 Middletown Giant (now Holyoke Blue Sox), and member-elect of the NECBL’s Hall of Fame this coming November 30th, indeed showed the world that he could stick.    

Although he has been a reliever through out his professional career, Breslow ranked among NECBL leaders in starts during his summer with the Giants.  The native of nearby Trumbull, CT went 5-4 with a 3.20 ERA and 51 strikeouts while in the NECBL.

"It was a really enjoyable summer- great competition coming off of a season at Yale," Breslow recalled about the NECBL.  "It was my first experience with summer ball.  I still remember some of the guys I was playing with and against and I can certainly credit that experience with helping me mature and establish myself as a pitcher, getting some confidence after a good summer."

Two years after being a senior sign with the Brewers, Breslow rode a baseball roller-coaster.  After being released in June 2004, he at one point found himself pitching for the Can-Am League New Jersey Jackals.  Thirteen months after toiling in the independent leagues, Breslow made his Big League debut with San Diego.

"It wasn’t necessarily that I needed to prove to anyone else that I could pitch or get guys out.  It was that I needed to prove it to myself," Breslow told NECBL.com in March 2012 on getting released and playing indy ball.  "I hadn’t really come to terms with the fact that my professional baseball career was dwindling or winding down. 

"I understand that not everyone is talented enough to make it to the Big Leagues.  But I want to walk away on my terms.  I want to prove that I am still a pitcher capable of getting guys out.  I want to remember what its like to play baseball because I enjoy doing it.  As soon as I took that mentality," he concluded, "I became a better pitcher."

Breslow’s Day of the Jackal is long in the past.  Traded from Oakland to Arizona in December 2011, and then from the Diamondbacks to the Red Sox on the 2012 trading deadline, Breslow appeared in 63 games with a 2.70 ERA last season.  

With over 280 appearances in the last four seasons, Breslow is now well established as an excellent Major League relief pitcher.  He credits "consistency" with being the key to sustaining a Big League career.

"Being a reliable arm, being consistent, fulfilling expectations and knowing exactly what your role is on the team and being able to do that," he observed.  "Obviously there is some luck that goes with that.  I’ve been able to stay healthy for the most part.

"I was a guy who would go through some rough patches but in the end, my numbers were going to fall into a certain range.  You could pencil me in for 70 games and a 3 ERA and know that every time I go out there," Breslow noted, "I was going to bring the same stuff."

Breslow’s "same stuff" extends far off the diamond.  In terms of community involvement, Breslow is a Hall of Famer.  He and teammate/good friend Andrew Bailey are co-hosting "Sip Happens", a food and wine pairing fundraiser for Breslow’s Strike 3 Foundation on June 24th.  It is the foundation’s first event in Beantown.

"The Strike 3 Foundation is a charity I founded four years ago.  Our mission is to raise awareness and funding for pediatric cancer research," Breslow told NECBL.com in March 2012.  "The impetus for that is my older sister Lesley, who is now going on 20 years as a pediatric thyroid cancer survivor.  I had always been interested in medicine.  I actually thought that my impact on the medical community would be as a physician.  My baseball career has taken the priority and the charitable work that I do has allowed me to remain connected to the medical field.

"In just four short years, we have raised over $1.1 million dollars.  Our fund raising efforts grow every year.  We gain momentum and we reach new audiences every year and in every season.  We’ve been able to fund some pretty important projects including a 5-year, $500,000 cumulative pledge to Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital as a founding sponsor of Connecticut’s first pediatric bone marrow transplant program.  We’ve also funded a siblings and cancer survivor support group at Children’s Hospital in Oakland.  We’ve also made contributions to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and most recently to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  

"We’ve also sponsored an American Society for Critical Oncology Young Investigators Award which is given to an oncology fellow looking for seed money to fund a project.  We’ve gotten technical, and across the country in supporting a number of programs.  That is something that we’re really proud to accomplish."

Remarkable things happen when you believe in your abilities.  If a released pitcher toiling in the lowest levels of professional baseball can be a stellar Big Leaguer, it’s a safe bet that a passionate Ivy Leaguer will also use his platform to win battles in the war on cancer.

Craig Breslow’s Advice to the NECBL Class of 2013: "I think honesty and commitment are the two things that can really be the mark of a man.  Those things don’t necessarily follow an easy path or a traditional path but certainly if you honestly believe you can succeed in something and you are committed to do what it takes to get there, then success is out there for the taking."    

For more information on the Strike 3 Foundation, please visit http://www.strike3foundation.org

For more information on the NECBL’s 2013 Hall of Fame dinner, please visit www.necbl.com

By Don Leypoldt

May 27, 2013 · Reprinted from necbl.com © 2013

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The Strike 3 Foundation heightens awareness, mobilizes support, and raises funding for childhood cancer research.

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Strike 3 Foundation
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