Arizona State Sun Devils Jonah Giblin of Bainbridge and Willie Bloomquist of South Kitsap are returning to the state they grew up in—but it’s not a friendly visit.
Bloomquist, the former Seattle Mariner, is now coach of ASU and Giblin, who graduated from BHS in 2020, is one of his starting pitchers. They are in the area to play the University of Washington baseball team April 14-16.
Bloomquist, who also played football for the Wolves, was selected by the Mariners out of high school in the eighth round of the 1996 draft. “Baseball in Seattle was essentially dead until the 1995 run of the Mariners,” he said. “What the Mariners did at that time with Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez and those guys essentially saved baseball in Seattle. All of a sudden, the nation was Mariners fans.”
However, he decided to skip out on that first opportunity to go pro and instead went to ASU. He later got drafted by the M’s in the third round of the 1999 draft. He ended up playing in the Major Leagues for 14 seasons.
“I was able to play with some of my idols growing up,” Bloomquist said. “Seeing the evolution of baseball was pretty cool. They began building Safeco Field and had the whole history evolve in Seattle. Being a player during that time was surreal.”
Bloomquist stepped away from the limelight for a handful of years before taking the head coaching position at ASU in 2021. Since putting on the maroon and gold, UW has become one of his biggest rivals, second only to Arizona. “It always feels a little strange going back up to the Northwest since it is my roots,” Bloomquist said. “It’s one of my bigger rivals. But on the flip side, it’s a nice breath of fresh air to return to the Northwest.”
Bloomquist has utilized his roots here to help with recruiting in the Northwest. “I’m watching some guys up in the Northwest because the one thing is having to play in those elements of frequent rain and cold breed a tougher player,” he said.
Giblin is competing in his home state for the first time since graduating. “I’m really excited because I haven’t been able to play in front of my friends and family since I played up there last,” he said. He agreed with the coach that the Huskies are one of their toughest teams to compete against. “It can be considered a rivalry. But I’m going back home and playing a hometown team I grew up watching. It will make for a cool atmosphere.”
Giblin said he will be able to handle the often cold, wet spring weather better than many of the players on both squads because this is where he learned to play ball. He and his coach have reminisced about growing up in Kitsap County. “It was cool because my family moved to Silverdale so I grew up going to high school on Bainbridge and grew up in the same parts Willie grew up in,” Giblin said. “It’s super cool that my head coach is someone I got to watch growing up and pick his brain whenever.”
Although Bloomquist and Giblin want to have bragging rights over UW, they do appreciate their Northwest roots. “I attribute whatever success as a player to my roots where I grew up,” Bloomquist said. “It was a humbling culture and continued to teach people the right way.”