Paging Dr. Craig Breslow
D-backs lefty and Yale grad plans to attend med school
"Absolutely," the Arizona Diamondbacks reliever said. "It just gets pushed back farther and farther."
Breslow is 31 now, in his seventh year in the Major Leagues.
"My age won't interfere with that plan," he said.
His effectiveness might, though. He had a string of 10 straight scoreless appearances snapped last month and carried a 1.45 ERA after 16 outings this season. He had two 11-game scoreless streaks with Oakland last season and has limited opposing hitters to a .224 batting average over his career. He set an A's team record for left-handed relievers with 71 strikeouts in 2010. He can be a one-batter specialist or he can go a couple of innings at a time. His versatility makes him a valuable commodity in the bullpen, and that's why the D-backs acquired him from Oakland last December.
When he's through playing ball, Breslow plans to become a doctor. He has had this ambition for a long time, beginning when, as an 11-year-old, he witnessed his sister, Lesley, diagnosed with pediatric thyroid cancer. It was a frightening time in his life, a lot for a youngster that age to endure.
It also helped point the pitcher toward medicine and the idea of curing the ill. He recognized the ability of doctors to save people's lives, and it made a lasting impression, leading to a lifetime career decision.
Breslow studied molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University, the ideal preparation for medical school. He was accepted at New York University's School of Medicine, but put that on hold when he was drafted by the Brewers in 2002. He also has logged time with San Diego, Boston, Minnesota, Cleveland and Oakland.
There have been ups and downs. After drifting through Milwaukee's low Minor League clubs for three seasons, he was released by the Brewers in 2004 and reapplied to NYU Medical School. He was accepted with the caveat that he give up baseball, but he was not prepared to turn his back on the game he loved.
"I wasn't ready to give it up," he explained. "I felt I could still get hitters out."
So the left-hander went about reinventing himself, signing with the New Jersey Jackals of the independent Northeast League and doing enough to get picked up by San Diego out of a tryout camp. The initial price was a bargain basement $1 and the chance to pitch for $1,500 for Double-A Mobile in the Southern League. He was impressive enough to be called up by the Padres in July, the first Yale pitcher to reach the Major Leagues since Ron Darling in 1983.
Released by the Padres, he hooked on with Boston and was a September callup in 2007, added to the postseason roster. He did not pitch an inning for Boston that year, but came away with a World Series ring when the Red Sox won the world championship. What followed were short stays with Cleveland and Minnesota before he settled in for three productive seasons with Oakland, where he experienced his best success. Arizona was looking to add an experienced left-hander to its bullpen when it acquired Breslow and Trevor Cahill in a five-player trade last December.
Through it all, his sister's struggle with cancer remained front and center with Breslow. He launched the Strike 3 Foundation in 2008 to raise funds and awareness for childhood cancer research and has pledged $500,000 to Yale New Haven Children's Hospital as a founding sponsor of the region's first pediatric bone marrow transplant program.
And when you ask him about Lesley , whose illness triggered an ultimate career choice for Breslow 20 years ago, he just smiles.
"She's doing fine," he said.
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York.