Bivens issues first statement since tragedy

August 31st, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- With the Rays in the middle of a heated race for one of the five playoff spots in the American League, they were reminded of just how fragile and important other things are away from the playing field.

On Monday, the Rays announced the passing of original owner Vince Naimoli, who died at the age of 81 after a long illness.

The following day, just hours before they were set to play a measuring stick of a series against the Astros, perspective quickly set in as Rays players and employees were notified of a horrific tragedy that affected one of their Minor League pitchers.

Blake Bivens, a pitcher for the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits, received the news that his wife, Emily Bivens, his 1-year old son, Cullen, and his mother-in-law, Joan Bernard, were murdered in rural Virginia. Bivens’ brother-in-law was arrested in connection with the case and stands accused of the murders.

The news affected the entire Rays organization and countless others in the baseball community. A GoFundMe account was set up by “Our Baseball Life” and within a day saw the donations surpass the $50,000 goal it had set. Multiple players from the Rays' organization donated to the account. Players from other teams, such as San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford and former Rays pitcher and current Dodger Casey Sadler, also donated.

The news, however, affected Blake, as well as the Bivens and Bernard families, much deeper than most of us could ever understand. On Thursday, Blake took to Instagram to publicly honor his family, writing:

“Two days ago my heart turned to ash. My life as I knew it is destroyed. The pain my family and I feel is unbearable and cannot be put into words. I shake and tremble at the thought of our future without them.”

“Emily, my sweetheart, you are the best wife and mother this world has ever seen. You made me into the man I am today and you loved me with all my flaws. You brought our precious baby boy into this world and made our family complete. Your love and kindness changed countless lives, including mine.”

Amid the tragic situation, the Rays' organization continued to show its support. Double-A manager Morgan Ensberg accompanied Blake back to Virginia and as the team returned home on Friday. There was a moment of silence held for Emily, Cullen and Joan, as well as Naimoli, before Friday's game at The Trop.

The Rays will wear a “VJN” patch on their sleeve for the rest of the season to honor their original owner and also wore the Devil Rays throwback uniforms, which wasn’t the original plan. Also, the Rays placed a poster in their dugout with “BIV” to show solidarity for a heartbroken member of their organization. The poster will stay in the home dugout for the foreseeable future.

“It’s secondary to what those families have gone through,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Erik Neander, our general manager, has made note of the outgoing support from the organization. Obviously with Blake and what he’s going through, you can’t say enough about the people in the organization. Morgan Ensberg, our Double-A manager, to stop what he was doing, get on a plane and support Blake, it’s pretty impressive and just so appreciative.”

Read the rest of Bivens’ post below.