Blowers molds raw talent into Graham-Kapowsin’s talented ace

Left-hander brings 47 strikeouts, 1.42 ERA as the Eagles join 15 other schools at district

todd.milles@thenewstribune.comMay 13, 2014 

C.J. Blowers’ bedroom is cluttered by typical teenager messes.

His bed is sometimes unkempt. Shoes and socks are everywhere. So is evidence of a few late-night snacks after Graham-Kapowsin High School baseball games.

But one orderly fixture hangs on the wall. It is usually full of jotted-down notes and pitching-related expressions — all written in marker.

His prized possession is a white board.

“He put it up last winter,” said Mike Blowers, his father, and also a former major league ballplayer-turned-television broadcaster. “He writes down a bunch of that kind of stuff, and looks at it all the time.”

In the span of 18 months, C.J. Blowers, a junior, has gone from raw pitching talent to emerging force not only in the 4A South Puget Sound League, but also the entire South Sound.

Showing better command of four quality pitches, and also improving his aptitude on the mound, the lanky left-hander has a 1.42 earned-run average as the Eagles’ ace, giving up just 30 hits over 44-plus innings while striking out 47 hitters this season.

Graham-Kapowsin is one of the 16 schools to open Class 4A West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament play Tuesday. The Eagles play Olympia in the first round.

His record easily could be better than 2-3 — he has lost a pair of 1-0 games to Puyallup and Federal Way, and a 2-1 decision to Beamer — but that hasn’t discouraged SPSL South coaches from heaping big-time praise on the 6-foot-5, 205-pounder.

“He has turned the corner,” Puyallup coach Marc Wiese said. “Big time.”

It hasn’t been the easiest path to get to this point. For any son of a former Seattle Mariners, is it ever?

C.J. is the middle son of Mike and Nicole Blowers. His oldest brother, Ryan, was a football player at Central Washington University. And his youngest sibling, Beau, is a ninth-grader who plays third base — just like his father.

“A lot of people think it’s been my dad’s career that has pushed me to get there,” C.J. said. “It has helped to have him around. But, honestly, it’s been my own self-motivation. This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was 1-foot tall.”

C.J. was 2 years old when Mike Blowers, a Bethel High graduate who went to Tacoma Community College and the University of Washington, finished off his 11-year big-league career in 1999 while with the Mariners.

Since 2007, Mike has been doing color commentary for the Mariners on radio and television.

“The biggest thing with C.J., and all my kids really, I wanted them to play sports,” Mike said. “I wanted them to enjoy what they were doing. So when he was 10 or 11, I wanted him to have fun and be a part of a team. And the only thing I stressed was when you go out there, you play as hard as you can.”

About two years ago, C.J. started getting serious about pitching. He would often call up family friend Larry Marshall, also the former baseball coach at Pacific Lutheran University, about nightly workouts.

“All of the stuff I have — fastball, cut fastball, slider and curveball — (Marshall) has helped me develop,” C.J. said.

But C.J. was struggling with one aspect of pitching: mound presence.

Normally the type of parent who likes to stand behind the fence in left field to take in his son’s outing, Mike saw something in his son during a tournament last summer in Olympia that irked him.

“After the second inning, I walked over to the dugout and got in him pretty hard. It was all about his attitude,” Mike said. “I told him the reasons he needed to fix that — that it just wouldn’t work and that I wouldn’t put up with it.”

Almost overnight, C.J.’s attitude began changing. It helped that he was working on mental aspects of pitching with Taylor Baseball pitching coach Sean Donlin, a Washington State University product.

“Last year, my mind was foggy. I didn’t always have the most confidence,” C.J. said. “But attitude on the mound is something I have excelled in very well this year compared to last year.

“My dad has told me I have all the tools, and now it’s just in my head.”

The game that validated everything — perhaps the best high school game in the area this season — was Blowers’ outing against nationally ranked Puyallup, which was led by ace pitcher Luke Heimlich, an Oregon State commit.

The game was scoreless all the way into the seventh inning when Puyallup’s Adam Stump turned on a low Blowers fastball and hit it out of the ballpark for a walk-off home run.

At the time, Mike was on the road with the Mariners but talked to C.J. right after the game.

“He seemed down because he gave up the home run in the seventh inning,” Mike said. “So I told him, ‘Hey, you’re missing all the good stuff and need to look at that.’ ”

A couple of days later, the two revisited the conversation. And C.J. was more upbeat about his showing.

“It just put me into a completely different mentality,” C.J. said. “And I’ve stayed in that mentality.”

And for a young Graham-Kapowsin squad, having C.J. emerge as the ace, and flanked by Alex Rivera, the Eagles are a serious threat not only in this postseason, but especially in 2015.

“He has elevated his game to being an (NCAA Division I) pitcher,” Graham-Kapowsin coach Brian Jackson said. “Last year, that fastball was 81-82 mph., and now he is 85-87 mph. And he has learned how to pitch in the SPSL.

“He is a big-time presence.”

One with his own thoughts and heightened expectations, and his very own white board to write things down.

“The No. 1 thing for me with my dad, he gives me the space to actually sit back, think about things and try and figure it out on my own before he steps in and says, ‘Hey, this is what you need to work on and what you did wrong,’” C.J. said. “I appreciate that tremendously.”

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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