If you would have asked Kyle Bloor a few years ago whether he thought he would end up as an award-winning pitcher in college baseball, he may very well have laughed at you.
Entering Colby Community College for the 2018-2019 season, the Lethbridge native thought he was going to contend as a catcher.
But with Australian star Cameron Tilly about to hit .377 with 17 home runs and 67 runs batted in, and several others ready to battle for the backup roll, Bloor remembers being urged to throw a bullpen session for the Trojans.
Having pitched when he was younger, he didn’t think anything of it, and headed to the bump.
“My velocity was higher than three-quarters of the team and my coach goes, ‘Yep, let’s develop you as a pitcher,’” Bloor told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast. “I was like, ‘OK, alright, let’s do it.’”
It set the wheels in motion for what has turned into a productive collegiate career for the righthander, who is garnering professional attention as well as awards like being named to the All-Appalachian Athletic Conference First Team.
The story of his transition from catcher to pitcher plays into Bloor’s unorthodox baseball journey.
Growing up in Lethbridge, he dedicated his life to his craft, even having his parents drive him to Calgary regularly for workouts at the indoor baseball facilities near Foothills Stadium now known as Absolute Baseball Academy and Fitness Centre.
It provided him with an opportunity to meet new people and represent Alberta and Canada at a variety of games and tournaments.
“It was tough growing up, and I don’t know how dad was able to do it,” Bloor said of all the driving. “It was a lot of sacrifice, that’s for sure.”
At 16, he was getting himself ready to head to Dawgs Academy in Okotoks when he remembers heading to Bozeman, Montana for a tournament with his hometown Lethbridge Elks.
Bloor admits he had felt a little soreness in his elbow, and had previously taken a little time to recuperate.
“I think it was my third pitch … I threw one and I got a really bad pain in my elbow,” he recalled.
“Coach came out, my elbow is swollen and everything, and I was in a lot of pain.”
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound hurler was heartbroken, as he had been planning to play for Team Alberta at the 2016 Canada Cup in Fort McMurray.
However, he says he was told to still come along for the experience as he had “earned the spot” and that it wasn’t fair for him to miss out.
“I got lucky as they let me throw an inning, so that was fun,” Bloor smiled. “It wasn’t a great inning, but it worked, and that’s when I got the notice from Colby that they were interested in recruiting me.”
OUT OF MY HEAD
Even with the big news, Bloor knew it was going to be an uphill climb to get there with elbow surgery on the horizon.
He dealt with it the best he could, working with people at Prairie Baseball Academy, among others, to get himself to a spot to succeed.
The recuperation, however, provided challenges both mentally and physically.
“I wasn’t getting the results I wanted, and my mechanics were so off.”
He made 34 pitching appearances for the Trojans between 2018 and 2021, going 1-7 with no saves and a 9.97 earned-run average.
Despite being healthy, Bloor felt like he still wasn’t comfortable enough on the mound.
“I think the biggest part of my recovery was the mental side,” he said.
“I was always so scared of what they always used to call ‘phantom pains’ – and I would shut it down for a few days after feeling something not quite right.”
Bloor went so far as to go back to the doctors for another MRI, but everything was normal.
“I finally said, ‘I have to get out of my own head,’ and that’s when things finally started going for me.”
During the abbreviated 2021 Western Canadian Baseball League season, Bloor made five relief appearances for his hometown Lethbridge Bulls, posting a 1-0 record with no runs allowed while striking out seven batters in seven-plus innings of work.
His performance turned the heads at Tennessee Wesleyan University, and he says as soon as he received the offer, he jumped on it.
A NEW PITCH
The newfound confidence immediately paid dividends for Bloor, as he was outstanding in his first season with the Bulldogs.
He became an integral part of their pitching staff as he was used in a variety of situations, including starting, long-relieving and closing.
Bloor finished the year with a 10-0 record in 23 appearances (including eight starts), with a save and a 5.06 ERA.
Instead of heading back home to play more baseball during the summer, he decided he needed to take a break by heading to the weight room to focus on health and flexibility.
“I was always in the weight room trying to be a bodybuilder and then realized that’s not the type of things I need,” said Bloor. “I really honed in on the athletic side of lifting and changed it up to be more explosive and flexible, which isn’t something I ever really was.”
He also spent the offseason working on adding a new pitch to his arsenal – a splitter – that gave him another option as he felt he didn’t have something to get hitters out after getting into an 0-2 count.
With 2021-2022 closer Liam Doolan heading back to his home country of Australia, Bloor found himself with the door open to the closer’s role.
When he was approached by head coach Billy Berry about where he saw himself in the lineup, the Alberta product knew where he would be most successful.
“When I was starting, it was more of a see if I can pace myself kind of thing and I wasn’t giving my best stuff,” he said. “When I was coming out of the bullpen, coach says, ‘You have one inning to give it your all and just blow everything out,’ and mentally, that’s the spot that I was better at.”
Bloor responded by making 17 appearances during the season, going 3-0 with seven saves (tied for the conference lead), striking out 36 batters in 25-plus innings of work, while holding a 3.20 ERA.
IN THE ON-DECK CIRCLE
Ranked as a top-four school in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), Tennessee Wesleyan University has put together an impressive campaign with an overall record of 42-10, including 29-2 in division play.
While Bloor is solely focused on winning a national championship, he does admit he wouldn’t mind getting a chance to take a few hacks at the plate to show he can get himself a college hit.
The 23-year-old and his fellow pitchers were given a chance to take some batting practice in the fall, and the Alberta product was able to get a few hits and even knocked a couple over the fence.
“Since the fall, I’ve been teasing the coach a little bit about that,” he said.
“Give me a shot because I’m not going to go down looking or anything – I’ll give you three of my best swings, that’s for sure.”
Once his college career comes to a close, he has his eyes on turning pro, saying he has received some interest and will wait to make sure the right opportunity comes at the right time.
Bloor wants to leave it all on the table, and play the game for as long as he can.
Even if he did go to college thinking he would be a catcher, he has made the most of the unexpected opportunity on the hill.
“I don’t take it for granted – it feels like it was two weeks ago that I had my first college start,” he said. “You meet some of the greatest people and it’s some of the best experiences, just living your best life for the few years you get for it.”