It’s hard to envision, if not near impossible, to think of BPA without BP. No, not Baseball Performance Academy going forward just as Academy, but BPA taking to a field in Georgia or Florida, Arizona or California, without Blake Pivaroff’s name penciled on a lineup card. As the 2020 graduate gets ready to move on to the next level, for the last decade, Pivaroff has been a linchpin of the organization. Whether it’s batting in the heart of the lineup, getting ready to deliver the first pitch or making a play in the middle of the diamond, the Laguna Beach native often impacts a game.
But his presence can also be felt well before a game begins.
“Sometimes you don’t realize how important those staple players are to you,” says BPA founder Jared Sandler, often the beneficiary of Pivaroff wearing BPA across his chest. “How confident it makes you feel when you drive up to the field to play. When you know you have guys that have been with you for so long, you know what to expect from them and you how they compete.”
What Sandler would come to expect from Pivaroff was discovered early, drawing on a time of a demanding hike, where Pivaroff, just an adolescent, was determined to keep up. Sandler discovered Pivaroff possessed an internal demand to meet any challenge.
From an early age Pivaroff and BPA seemed to be the perfect match.
Pivaroff joined BPA at eight, starting a growth and maturation right alongside the budding program. Pivaroff’s dad determined Sandler’s instruction was best for his son’s development. Pivaroff at that age would not know what was right from wrong with a baseball organization, but would come to understand what his dad saw. “I realized my dad was right the whole time,” the Arizona State-signee says.
“You look at Jared then look at some other teams, Jared’s going to be a guy that’s out there helping each player, really, really caring about them, wanting them to get better,” Pivaroff says. “Jared’s always going to be there for me to do whatever, so seeing that as I grew up, I never saw any reason to leave.”
Pivaroff, like BPA players that have come before him and those that will follow him, can speak to times when it hasn’t always been the easiest, no stranger to a sharp eye or stern voice from Sandler. But it’s those moments of being pushed to the edge, having greatness demanded and being held accountable that has him ready to join one of college baseball’s premier programs.
“I take it in a good way, when I hear him angry, or getting on me for something,” Pivaroff says of playing under Sandler for BPA. “It’s better than him just sitting in the dugout, not saying anything and watching me make errors, strike out or do anything like that. Just being here so long, I grew up with that mindset and understood what Jared’s philosophy was at a young age.”
While BPA may have helped with his mindset, Sandler believes its Pivaroff’s internal drive that sets him apart.
“People can misinterpret Blake sometimes because he’s really quiet, there’s a calmness about him, but Blake is ultra-competitive,” Sandler says. “He’s always had this quiet competitiveness about him, I think that’s part of what drives him to keep challenging himself to keep working, and keep wanting to get better.
“I think he’s really excited about Arizona State, but he really wants to get on the field early and help contribute. I think he’s excited about the next three years there, but I also think he’s really adamant in his mind that he wants it to be a three-year stint then on to pro ball. I think his inner competitiveness is a big factor in what drives him.”
With Pivaroff set to trade in the black and gold of BPA for ASU’s marron and gold, helping players reach their potential is what drives Sandler and helping players find the right fit is what BPA stands for. Over Pivaroff’s time with BPA, those two principles came together perfectly for what lies ahead in Tempe.
“He had a lot of early exposure,” Sandler recalls of how many college coaches were able to see Pivaroff, and various programs throughout the country the two-way standout saw first-hand. “ He’s seen Midwest, Texas, seen the southeast, the northwest, he’s been all over, so I felt like as much as anybody, he was really equipped to make a good decision.”
To Pivaroff, the exposure opportunities helped guide Pivaroff to his future Pac 12 home, even though it wasn’t his first inclination on what was best for him.
“Growing up, I always wanted to go to the South,” says the 2020 graduate. “I’d just heard the SEC is the best, the SEC is where you want to go. Jared took us around to so many different schools, just the feeling at Arizona State, I felt something different from a big school in the SEC or anything like that. I just felt that Arizona State was right.
“Since Jared gave me all of those opportunities, I was able to realize that and compare it to everything else.”
Having a goal to see the field as a freshman, Pivaroff believes the competitive culture of BPA gives him a leg up. He also sees similarities in the coaching style of Sandler and Tracy Smith’s Sun Devil staff. But his forthcoming collegiate experience won’t be without an adjustment period.
“It’s also going to be pretty different just being with different guys because I grew up with Jared and I grew up with a lot of the guys from 10 years old and 12 years old and everything. Those guys are my brothers. I’ve known Harry Owen since seven years old, and everyone kind of joined along the way. We’ve all bonded so well.”
The way the team bonded, becoming brothers off the field and winning at a high level on it —claiming a pair of Wilson Premier Classic championships, may be in large part due to Pivaroff being that glue.
“It’s a good feeling for the last 10 years or whatever it’s been, to go out to a game and Blake’s going to be hitting in the middle of your lineup, either on the mound or the middle of the field, be a leader,” says Sandler. “It’s exciting to see all of the kids in the program commit and have success, move in the right direction. It’s something extra special when it’s somebody like Blake.”
“I think with BPA, if a guy didn’t fit in and he wasn’t a part of the team, then he wouldn’t continue playing with BPA. It was kind of you had to be a certain type of person and a certain type of baseball player to be a part of this organization and it’s really, really special to be included in that and play with those guys.”
A certain type of person, a certain type of baseball player, there’s been no better fit for BPA than BP.