Blake Bivens has a 3.95 ERA in 57 Double-A innings this year. He was a 4th round pick in 2014 who is now a reliever trying to battle through the minor leagues and get a shot at the big leagues some day.
None of this is of any significance right now.
This is not a baseball article.
Sometime late Tuesday afternoon, I saw a tweet from the Montgomery Biscuits, a Tampa Bay Rays Double-A affiliate, saying, “Due to a tragic event within the Biscuits family, tonight’s doubleheader against the Chattanooga Lookouts has been cancelled. The Biscuits ask for privacy at this time and will provide an update when it’s appropriate.” It took hours before any more information surfaced about the cause of this cancellation. When the details emerged, it was worse than any of us could have ever guessed.
While the Biscuits were in Chattanooga preparing for the day’s scheduled doubleheader, police in southern Virginia answered a 911 call where a neighbor “believed someone had been shot.” They arrived on site to find three bodies who were identified to be 25 year-old Emily Bernard Bivens, 62 year-old Joan Denise Jefferson Bernard, and 14 month-old Cullen Micah Bivens.
I’m sorry. I have to take a second to gather myself because just typing that last sentence, specifically the final portion, feels like a punch to the gut.
The three victims turned out to be the wife, son, and mother-in-law of Blake Bivens. He now has the unimaginable task of trying to pick up the pieces and figure out what to do next. As one of the elder statesmen at Diamond Digest, I’m also one of very few who has a wife and a mother-in-law. Both of them have had a huge impact on my life in the nine years I’ve known them. I could not fathom what it would be like to lose both of them so tragically and suddenly. Tack on a son who just celebrated his first birthday in June, and you have a tragedy no person should ever have to experience.
If you want to get a peek into Bivens’ life, take a look through his Instagram. Knowing what we know now, it’s impossible to not get emotional looking through it. Almost every post he’s put up is baseball related or with his wife and son. He was happy. They were a young couple with a beautiful young son, he was chasing his dream, and they had their entire lives ahead of them. Nothing about this will ever make sense.
Emily Bivens’ brother, Matthew Thomas Bernard, was arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder after being chased down naked in a wooded area nearby. Early reports have indicated that he was battling mental health issues and seems to have hit a breaking point. I’m sure this is of no comfort to Blake Bivens and his entire family. What’s important right now is that they get whatever support they can from those around them and those of us who’ve never met any of them.
Morgan Ensberg, former Astros, Padres, and Yankees third baseman and Montgomery Biscuits manager, flew back to Virginia with Bivens after they heard about the tragedy. “I didn’t want to let him out of my sight” Ensberg said at an emotional press conference Thursday before echoing what we’re all thinking “Nobody’s thinking about baseball.” Biscuits pitcher Ryan Thompson said of Bivens “His family was everything to him. He never lets the game get in the way of who he is as a human being.”
We could all follow Blake Bivens’ example: never let the game get in the way of being a good human being. Blake has had a hole ripped open in his life and no amount of money or well wishes is going to fill it, but we can let him know he’s got lots of other humans in his corner. Let him know you’re thinking about him and praying for him (if you’re the praying type). A gofundme has been started to help Blake and his family. If you are able, donate here. Nothing anyone does or says will fix the situation, but there is also no intention or donation too small.
Whatever next step he takes in his life is going to be extremely difficult. There is no playbook for recovering from this kind of immense loss and everyone grieves differently. All I know for sure is that I’ll be rooting for Blake Bivens. As a baseball player, yeah, but more importantly I’ll be rooting for him as a person.
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