By Laura Amato
Ed Blankmeyer knew it was a possibility.
The longtime St. John’s baseball coach knew his team could be good this season. The Red Storm are, after all, the defending Big East champs.
Blankmeyer is the first to admit, however, that he’s been just a bit more than pleased by his squad’s early-season run at history. St. John’s opened the season with its best start in over 30 years, winning nine straight games and breaking into the national conversation as one of the top teams in the country.
It’s a start Blankmeyer hoped for – building off last season’s success with a roster chock-full of talent this spring – but he’s not one to stop and smell the roses. Or, more importantly, linger on victories.
Blankmeyer has his sights set on something bigger.
“The bottom line is that my job is to prepare these guys to play the best they possibly can,” Blankmeyer said. “That’s my job and it’s about the next thing. It’s on to the next grind and what I enjoy more than anything else is the preparation and getting them to play well.”
To say that the Red Storm have been playing well to start this season would be an understatement. St. John’s won 10 of its first 11 games – only falling to No. 9 East Carolina March 4 – and picked up solid victories against No. 7 North Carolina and reigning national champs Coastal Carolina.
The wins all but stunned the college-baseball world, but Blankmeyer quickly pointed to his squad’s experience and. most importantly, its undeniable talent.
St. John’s returned 20 letter winners from a team that went 41-16 and also finished as NCAA Regional Finalists last season. The biggest question mark was pitching and so far that hasn’t really been much of a question.
In those first 11 games, the Red Storm pitching staff boasted a collective 2.55 ERA and racked up 103 strikeouts in 99 innings pitched. It’s a one-two punch of offense and defense that has St. John’s rolling – and confident.
“We felt if they came along quickly, we could get off to a good start,” Blankmeyer said. “Typically with young kids, freshman, it takes them a while to adapt, but these guys have jumped right in there. It’s all kind of melding quickly and I think that’s certainly helped us.”
Blankmeyer, of course, has plenty of experience getting teams to meld. The winningest coach in St. John’s baseball history, Blankmeyer is in the midst of his 22nd season in the dugout and racked up his 700th career win last March.
But he doesn’t really care about any of that.
Blankmeyer loves winning games, but he’s more interested in developing a different type of baseball culture at St. John’s, determined to put Northeast baseball on the map – even before the snow has completely melted.
“Everybody wants you to bask in the glory and I kind of try not to think about it,” Blankmeyer said. “I really only worry about the next game and I kind of take it in after the fact when it’s all said and done. Us coaches, we’re not really wired to enjoy it. Maybe I’ll enjoy it for a couple of hours and then I’m on to the next game.”
Blankmeyer has helped turned St. John’s into a top-tier baseball program – boasting alums like World Series winner and San Francisco Giants standout Joe Panik – and he prides himself on focusing on the student in student-athlete. He’s also pretty proud of everything he’s accomplished on Utopia Parkway.
“We have a tremendous basketball program, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the most successful program is the baseball program,” Blankmeyer said. “The all-time winningest program based on NCAA appearances and that’s what I’m most proud of. There’s been a legacy left and I’m just the pallbearer here. I’ve got to carry the torch so to speak.”
Blankmeyer is happy with the start this year. So is his entire roster. They aren’t, however, satisfied. The Red Storm want to be mentioned in the same breath as the top programs in the country and this year the team is certain it can be.
“We want teams to think that when they’re playing us, they’re playing the best,” Blankmeyer said. “We take pride in getting there and we want to be amongst the best. That’s what we want.”