I’m getting to the point right now: This retired softball player idolized former all-world player Kevin
Bleutge — in more ways than one.
In the 1980’s, Bleutge was Sertoma Slow-pitch Softball League’s ultimate five-tool player — explosive power, incredible all-field hitting mechanics and amazing speed offensively, and a silky-smooth shortstop who had the uncanny ability to make jaw-dropping plays look routine.
He was the definition of cool, too.
A bad-(bleep) dude, too.
I saw the bad-to-the-bone Bleutge in action first-hand in the mid-1980’s. While drinking with him at a former local watering hole, Bleutge and a bar patron got into a heated argument and it went outside.
The people who know Bleutge: There wasn’t a fight he was afraid of. I can remember it like it was yesterday. Bleutge warned the fella, “You don’t really want to do this!” The guy shook his head in a “yes” motion.
The fight was over in like one minute. No blood on Bleutge.
Unfortunately, my softball idol is no longer with us as Bleutge died of glioblastoma after a courageous battle on Aug. 23 in North Carolina. He was only 62.
Teammate Troy reflects
Bleutge and yours truly were good friends, but not league softball teammates — only in pick-up tournaments a few times.
How was the free-spirited Bleutge as a regular teammate? One of the best, according to former teammate Chuck Troy.
“Kevin was an incredible player, and crazy at times, but the main thing about him was that he was so loyal to his teammates and friends,” said Troy, who began playing with Bleutge for Jim’s Tavern in the early 1980’s. “He always had your back.
“The one thing I really admired about his game … he played full speed from the beginning of the game to the end. I swear he must have run into the fence (down the left-field line) on Field 1 (at the Lincoln Avenue Softball Complex) at least 500 times chasing a foul ball. We would scream at him to stop, but he wouldn’t. He never quit on any play.”
Concluding, Troy said, “I loved playing with Kevin.”
As probably did all Bleutge’s ex-teammates — including yours truly.
Before showcasing his superior softball skills at the Lincoln Avenue Softball Complex, Bleutge was smashing football players on Bender Field.
Still regarded as one of the hardest-hitting tacklers — and possibly the greatest punter — in Meadville High School football history, Bleutge made sure the opposing players knew where he was on the field during his stellar 1974-76 career.
Former MASH teammate Dave “Critter” Stone can still recall a scene when Bleutge began delivering pain on players.
His own teammates.
“I was a senior and Kevin was a sophomore, and in our first practice scrimmage against the sophomores, our players were coming back to the huddle complaining about Kevin’s hard hits,” said Stone laughingly. “We knew then that Kevin was one tough dude. He was a special player … in all of his sports that he played.”
Stone & Co. also knew they had one top-notch punter on their hands.
“Kevin was a phenomenal punter,” said Stone. “I can honestly say Kevin had one of the strongest legs I’ve ever seen. He boomed the punts.”
The multi-skilled Bleutge also shined in baseball (of course) and golf at MASH.
Heaven just gained an all-star softball player in Bleutge … and, in the process, got a lot cooler and tougher.
Thanks for the memorable memories, Kevin — on and off the field. RIP, brother.