Jason Huggins describes his most senior pitcher, Anthony Bleggi, as even keeled.
“That’s the great thing I like about him,” Huggins said. “He’s not too high, he’s not too low. He’s very business-like.”
It seems apt considering that while Bleggi’s teammates in Jackson were loosening their arms up after a winter away from the diamond, Bleggi was throwing strikes for the Miles City (Montana) Community College baseball team on its deep run into the postseason.
When his college teammates were hanging up their gloves after finishing two games shy of a Junior College World Series berth, Bleggi traded his college uniform for the Giants’ red and blue and got right back on the hill.
No real break after his first college season. Why would he need a break? Ask him, and the answer is obvious: He’s just happy to be playing baseball.
“I was kind of looking forward to coming back,” he said, shrugging. “Just come back and play some more baseball.”
It’s the fifth year in the Jackson Giants program for the Driggs, Idaho, resident, and Huggins said he rejoined the team a more refined rock on the mound than he was a year ago.
“That experience, that’s just so valuable to me as a coach, but to all these players he’s been there and done that,” Huggins said. “There’s nothing that can happen on the field that he hasn’t seen already.”
What he has seen in his time away is a much faster game. Bleggi appeared in 13 games for the Pioneers, amassing a 5-3 record with 50 strikeouts across 45 innings pitched, according to the team’s website.
Players returning to the Giants after freshman campaigns in college is nothing new, especially for Jackson athletes who take their talents to Miles City. Including Bleggi, four Giants have gone on to play baseball for the Pioneers. Older brother Kolton Bleggi, Tristan Shockley and Zach Neuhaus have all made the roughly 400-mile move across the Montana border.
Huggins said that pipeline is due in part to a trust the programs have with one another. Jackson sends its kids north for junior college ball, and after their first year in Miles City they come back home for one last charge in Legion ball.
“A lot of the college programs, if they know you’re going back to a quality program, they’ll let you go back and play,” Huggins said. “He can get his innings in here, he can get his at-bats in here because we’ve got a quality program.”
The return paid off immediately two weeks ago at the Gillette Memorial Tournament. On top of a walkoff hit to down Cheyenne Post 6 in the finale, he commanded a 5-0 win over Gillette in which he tossed a nine-strikeout one-hitter. He’s 2-0 on the hill so far for the Giants this season with much more to come as the meat of the season arrives.
Bleggi is quick to deflect from his own accomplishments and contributions as Jackson builds toward a state championship. He says while the college game forced him to improve mentally and physically, bringing back his newfound experience and sharing it with the team is what he most looked forward to in his return.
“To come back here and share some knowledge with these guys is good,” he said. “I like coming back and coaching some these guys that are young coming in.”
One of the players he’s mentoring is younger brother Parker. The younger of the Bleggi brothers has dealt with injuries in past seasons, but he’s back this season contributing from the mound and the plate. With Anthony Bleggi returning to the team for his final season, it likely marks the last time the brothers will suit up together.
As for what comes next, the returning college pitcher said there was a measured sting to coming up just shy of the Junior College World Series, but he hopes to regroup with his team come fall and make another run at it. From there, he hasn’t thought about what comes after Miles City.
Wherever he goes, he just hopes to be playing baseball, obviously.