Blake stays in it ‘for the kids’

by J.C. Blomstedt

Simpson’s pitching coach, Joe Blake Sr., is in his 21st year of coaching. Blake is a Simpson alumni, who’s had many successes during his time as a player and an assistant coach for the baseball team at Simpson.

Blake grew up in Indianola and said his mother and father acted as important influences in his life.

“My dad was a guy who enjoyed baseball but never got to play,” Blake said. “When he had my brother and I, we played a lot together – he was always there to throw to and play catch with.”

Blake said he learned a lot from his parents without even knowing it. Part of his coaching approach he takes from his mother. He believes a confident athlete can accomplish a lot, and his mission as a coach is to get his athletes to believe in their talent

“If you’ve got enough confidence, you’ll get the most out of yourself,” Blake said. “[Simpson baseball players] know I don’t mind being their friend and I’m really interested in them doing well. They get the feel that I really am interested in seeing them achieve what they want.”

Athletic Director John Sirianni, who is also the head baseball coach, said Blake has been able to make his players believe in themselves because of his ability to earn their trust.

“Kids have an immediate trust for his knowledge and approach,” Sirianni said.

Freshman pitcher Keaton Sansgaard said Blake is easy to get along with.

“He likes to joke around a lot,” Sansgaard said. “He makes it easy to get to know him.”

Blake enjoys working with the players, too.

“We’ve got bright kids,” Blake said. “They catch on quick and are people who will be successful in life.”

Sirianni also said Blake has used his close relationships with the players to build up the program.

“When we started out, Simpson wasn’t very good,” Sirianni said. “He and I have worked together to build what we have now. Now we’re a lot like brothers. He’s had as much to do with our success as I have; he builds very good relationships with our kids.”

Blake also sees his role on the coaching staff as a person who keeps the tension level low on the team.

“My job is kind of comic relief,” Blake said. “You perform best when you have intensity without tension – tension destroys talent.”

Sirianni said their relationship works so well because of how their two personalities combine.

“He’s usually more fun and laid back, whereas I’m more focused and driven,” Sirianni said.

Sansgaard also noticed Blake’s different approach and style compared to Sirianni.

“He’s pretty lenient, but when it’s time to get down to business, he makes you work hard,” Sansgaard said.

Blake said he always intends to stop coaching each year, but the returning players keep him from leaving.

“I started out with the idea of only doing this a year or so,” Blake said, “But I really like the kids.”