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St. John's Baseball Keeping It All in the Family

By Dylan Butler | April 8, 2013 12:01pm

JAMAICA — Baseball at St. John’s University is truly a family game.

In his 18th year at the helm, Ed Blankmeyer is in the unique position this season to coach both his son, Ty, and nephew, Mike Sheppard III, freshmen who were also teammates at Seton Hall Prep.

Blankmeyer admits he is harder on his son and nephew than the other players, saying he’s probably been “cheaper” with playing time when it comes to son.

"We’re going through a lot of growing pains and putting a lot of pressure on them, but I think they enjoy it,” Blankmeyer said.

But Ty, who like his father, is a second baseman, wouldn’t want it any other way. He said he wants to earn any playing time he gets.

“We have it a little harder than everyone else,” Ty said. “It’s blood so he can be harder on me, he’s allowed to be. But ultimately it’s going to make me better, tougher and a better person.”

Ed Blankmeyer also said there’s a clear divide between being coach and dad. When the two are in uniform, he’s Coach Blankmeyer. But when Ty was choosing schools, Ed was a father, even taking him on a few recruiting visits.

“My wife and I encouraged him to look at his options, and he had several good options, but I guess when push came to shove he wanted to come back and play for me and be around the family,” Ed said.

Ed told Ty, who had offers from Navy, Virginia Commonwealth, Old Dominion, Temple and Kent State, the decision was his.

What Ty chose was familiarity. And of course, family.

“It would have felt weird going anywhere else,” Ty said. “I felt like I belonged here because I’ve been a part of it my whole life, growing up here.”

That’s not hyperbole. Ty grew up at Kaiser Stadium. He was the team’s batboy from the time he was five years old and accompanied the Red Storm on a few road trips.

Ed joked that former St. John’s standouts Kevin McGeery and Keith Stamler even babysat during games they weren’t pitching.

As was the case when he was a batboy, Ty wears the No. 0 on his jersey.

“It has its ups and downs,” Ty said of playing for his father. “It makes the good games better and the bad games a little tougher. I wouldn’t want it any other way, to have my dad right there behind me, supporting me. It’s a cool feeling.”

His cousin Sheppard III, a 6-foot-1 right-handed pitcher, knows how Ty feels because he, too, played for his father, Mike II, at Seton Hall Prep.

“In the beginning it was a little tough playing for my dad because you’re held to high expectations, but over the years, as a junior and senior, I kind of got used to it,” he said. ‘It was a cool experience not many people can say they’ve done.”

While Ty spent much of his childhood in the St. John’s dugout, Sheppard III was across the river at Seton Hall University, where their grandfather Mike was a legendary coach and where their other uncle, Rob, currently coaches.

In fact, Sheppard III was recruited by both St. John’s and Seton Hall, and had offers from Virginia, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, East Carolina and UConn.

“I picked St. John’s because it’s not too far, but it’s not too close to home and I was almost too familiar with Seton Hall University, being around it all my life,” Sheppard III said.

Ty and Sheppard III weren’t a package deal out of Seton Hall Prep, but they did talk about being college teammates. They even share an off-campus apartment together.

“They’re as close to being brothers as they possibly can,” Ed said.

They have also shared the ups and downs of a rocky season for a St. John’s team with 11 freshmen on the roster and a sub .500 record (13-18).

Ty has started 14 of the 18 games he’s played in, batting .262 with five RBIs.

“Ty’s a baseball player. He handles the bat well, he defends pretty good,” Ed said. “He has to adjust to the speed of the game, like a lot of the young guys. Because of his size, he has to get stronger physically.”

Sheppard III is 1-0 with a 4.96 earned run average. That lone win, a 13-7 victory against New York Tech on April 1, was the 600th of his uncle’s career.

“Michael has a good arm, the makings of a very good breaking ball, but as any young pitcher, he has to improve his ability to throw strikes and to hold runners,” Ed said.

They’ve just embarked on their college baseball careers, but might Ty and Sheppard III follow in their fathers’ footsteps and become coaches? Perhaps lining up against each other?

“We have it in our family,” Ty said. “So it wouldn’t surprise me.”