WASHINGTON — Blake Treinen’s career path to the height of his profession was more unfixed than most, even for a baseball player.
After playing high school ball in Osage City, Kansas, he attended Baker University — about an hour’s drive from his hometown — on a minimal scholarship, where he played on the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics-governed Junior Varsity squad.
“I pitched in like three innings on the J.V. team, was kind of over baseball at that point and decided to transfer to the University of Arkansas,” he began retelling his story to 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on Thursday.
There he met up with a former Arkansas baseball player. “He was giving me some lessons and some pointers,” he said. “I was gonna try to walk on there, and I was just so naive to how big time a program like that is. I came from a small town in Kansas and so understanding how networking in baseball goes, and how much of a business it is — even at the college level — was kind of hard for me to grasp.”
After attempting to walk onto the Razorbacks program, “They just kind of like laughed at me and pushed me to the side.”
Treinen recommitted himself to his schoolwork for the next year, all the while working out with the mind to try out for the team again the following year. “And if it didn’t work out, then it didn’t work out,” he said.
But the coming winter break in 2007, Treinen began plotting his exit, and put together a highlight reel to send out to the baseball programs at The University of Kansas and South Dakota State University.
Why those schools?
“I kind of set some strict guidelines,” he said. “I was kind of afraid about it and said, ‘Hey, I’m not gonna leave Arkansas where I have a really good situation with landscape architecture unless it’s a Division-I school and they have landscape architecture also.’
“Lo and behold, South Dakota State just turned Division-I in baseball that year, and also got a landscape program, so I transferred up there.”
After red-shirting his season, Treinen rattled off a 7-1 record and 6.09 ERA on 82 strikeouts in 76.1 innings pitched for the Jackrabbits in 2010, garnering the attention of the Florida Marlins, who selected him in the 23rd round of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
“Went down to finalize everything and [the Marlins] voided my contract, based on inflammation in my shoulder,” Treinen said. “And so I was sent back to South Dakota St., and through all the checks and balances of NCAA, and not having an agent and not practicing with the team, I was able to play my fifth year of school ball.”
Treinen, inflamed shoulder and all, was better in 2011, pitching to a 7-3 record with a 3.00 ERA on 84 strikeouts in 84 innings pitched.
He would only have to wait until the 7th round in 2011 before he was drafted once more, this time by the Oakland Athletics.
A little under four years and one trade later (Treinen came over to Washington in the three-team deal which sent Michael Morse back to Seattle in 2013) he may break camp with the Nationals as a late-inning reliever, with Casey Janssen on the shelf for the foreseeable future.
About that Arkansas program which laughed him off campus:
“I can’t really blame them for it,” said Treinen. “Because it put me into the position that I am in now.