By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa. — One of the first things that catches your eye about Curve pitcher Blake Weiman’s biography is his high school alma mater: Columbine, Colorado.
That’s right! THE Columbine High School in the Metropolitan Denver area where 12 students and one teacher were murdered on April 20, 1999. Twenty-one others were injured in what was the deadliest shooting at a school in U.S. history at that time.
“I was in kindergarten then,” Weiman said during a recent interview at Peoples Natural Gas Field, and he did not say much about the details of that horrible event. He did recall his days at the school, though.
“I grew up in the Littleton area, south Denver,” Weiman said, “and should have gone to a different high school – Dakota Ridge. But my dad has been lifelong friends with Columbine’s head football coach and I grew up being a little ball boy at football games.
“Columbine is a sports powerhouse in Colorado,” Weiman continued, “so I grew up a huge fan, got to know the teachers in the community and knew where I wanted to go at a young age.”
He was aware of the school shooting, though.
“Of course, but not at 4 or 5 years old,” he said. “In elementary school, you learn about school safety and that’s kind of when they started implementing lockdowns, fire drills, … safety stuff. You go to middle school and everyone asks where you’re going to high school. Mine was always Columbine. There was never a second question in my mind.
“The (Columbine) principal at the time talked to kids who wanted to go there,” Weiman said. “He was the principal at the time of the tragedy and he’s created a great environment for people who wanted to be a part of that community and that school.”
At Columbine, Weiman was a three-time selection (2012-2014) to the Colorado High School Futures All-Star team and went on to a fine three-year career at the University of Kansas, compiling an 11-1 record and 2.38 ERA. The Pirates selected him in the eighth round of the 2017 MLB draft.
“I went to Kansas for three years,” he noted, “and developed a lot there, particularly as a person. The first year was tough, but it was a good three years. I got smarter and stronger and it made me ready for pro ball.”
After signing with the Bucs, Weiman went to the short-season West Virginia Black Bears where he struck out 35 and walked only 4 in 33.1 innings.
He started 2018 with the low-A West Virginia Power and posted a 1.29 ERA with 35 strikeouts and just two walks in 28 innings. He was promoted to advanced-A Bradenton on May 30 and didn’t allow a run in his first five appearances.
Weiman then became the first member of the Pirates 2017 draft class to reach Double-A when he joined Altoona on Aug. 26. He went 1-0 in three relief appearances during the regular season and also earned a win over Akron in the Eastern League division playoffs.
“It was a fun time making that playoff run,” he said.
The 6-3, 210-pound lefty also represented the Pirates in the Arizona Fall League and earned a hold for the AFL West Division in the Fall Stars Game.
“That was a blast,” he said of the all-star game. “There were so many talented guys there and you realize how close you are to making it (to the majors.)”
Curve manager Michael Ryan says Weiman has been impressive so far.
“A lot of guys talk about how good his stuff is, how he carries himself and how competitive he is,” Ryan said of the 23-year-old southpaw. “He has a good fastball for a lefty and can spot it in and out. His changeup is good and his slider comes into play.
“He has all three weapons and he’s very effective.”