Blake Treinen was rolling south on Interstate 84 somewhere in central Idaho last week when I finally caught up with him
We had been playing phone tag for several days and Treinan had determined that Thursday morning would work best for a telephone interview while he was on the road.
Blake Treinen is a Major League Baseball pitcher, and he was en route to Los Angeles to restart spring training that was interrupted way back in March by the COVID-19 outbreak.
As a new member of the Dodgers, he’ll be training in L.A. rather than Phoenix as MLB teams make preparations at their respective home stadiums for an abbreviated 60-game schedule.
After a lengthy financial squabble between owners and players, the regular season is now expected to get underway in the latter half of July.
Treinen also makes Walla Walla his home during the offseason, although most folks around here might not be aware of it. Blake is a private guy who keeps to himself and shuns publicity whenever possible.
I’ve tried on several occasions to interview Treinen for a story. He finally agreed, thanks in part to Bobbi Hazeltine’s intervention.
Hazeltine is the women’s head basketball coach at Walla Walla Community College.
And one of her assistant coaches is Blake’s wife Kati, who as Kati Isham led WWCC to an NWAC championship as a sophomore in 2010 and then finished up her collegiate playing career at Boise State.
Hazeltine explained to Treinen that sports writers like myself have been starved for material during this pandemic malaise.
And that’s how I got my interview.
Not surprisingly, Treinen didn’t want to get into discussions about the feud between owners and players that has kept baseball backstage longer than necessary in the wake of the coronavirus scare.
“I’m not going to talk about that,” Treinen said. “It’s something that needs to be between the two parties and not a public matter. The fact that so much became public wasn’t good for the game or the fans or the players or the owners.”
As far as the virus is concerned, Treinen isn’t particularly worried health-wise for himself or his family. The Treinens have two small children, ages 1 and 3.
“I am not very popular on the pandemic,” he said. “It is a serious illness for people to consider, but I am choosing to live my life in the same fashion but with respect to people who take it a little more serious as far as wearing masks.
“I feel like we are meant to live our lives, to not live in fear but live how the Lord wants us to live. I know it has effected a lot of people in negative ways and I have sympathy for those people. That goes with any illness.
“But for me and my family, we are going to enjoy this ride that is baseball and give fans something else to talk about other than the chaos our country and the world are going through.”
Treinen knows that when the season finally does begin, there will be one significant missing ingredient. Because of the fear of spreading the coronavirus, there won’t be any fans allowed in the stands.
“That sucks,” Treinen said. “Fans are the reason we play, and it makes the moment a lot more special when they are yelling, either for you or against you.
“We love the fans and want them to see baseball. But for the safety of them and us, you have to deal with it until there is a long-term solution to the coronavirus.”
Kati Treinan has been an assistant coach at WWCC for the past seven seasons, and it was she who introduced her husband, a native Kansan, to the Walla Walla Valley.
His first impression wasn’t all that great, he admits.
“My first year in Walla Walla was only in January,” Treinen said. “And I wasn’t sure this was the place I wanted to live.”
He has since changed his mind. The Treinans intend to make Walla Walla their permanent home.
“We certainly chose Walla Walla because we love it,” Blake said. “And unless the Lord calls us elsewhere, we will be in Walla Walla.”
Because of the shutdown Treinen has been able to enjoy the Valley in late spring and early summer for the first time.
And it has led to additional quality family time as well.
“Seeing how beautiful the fields and mountains are and being with my family and watching my kids grow has been special,” he said. “Because baseball can be a grind where on a good month you only see them 15-to-20 days and on a bad month maybe 10 days.
“But we are called to work and not be lazy,” he added. “And that’s why I want to get back to work playing baseball.”
Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned from the pandemic, Treinen suggested.
“Walla Walla is a diverse community, but everyone here seems to get along so well. I wish the world was that way.
“I think the world needs a little bit of Walla Walla.”