Where They Are Now

Smart guy

Craig Breslow ’02 put medical school on hold for a career as a major-league relief pitcher.

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Getty images

Craig Breslow ’02 put medical school on hold for a career as a major-league relief pitcher. View full image

Craig Breslow ’02, a left-handed relief pitcher for the Oakland Athletics, is currently the only Yale alumnus in major league baseball. He was first called up to the majors by the San Diego Padres in 2005 and has since seen action with the Boston Red Sox, the Cleveland Indians, and the Minnesota Twins. Now a key contributor to one of the best bullpens in the American League, Breslow was also number one on a list of the “20 smartest athletes in sports” published by Sporting News in 2010. Off the field, he serves as executive director of the Strike 3 Foundation, which raises awareness of and support for childhood cancer research. Breslow founded the organization in 2008, inspired by his sister, who survived thyroid cancer after being diagnosed at age 14. At his locker before a game in June, Breslow took some time to talk about his reputation and his work on and off the baseball diamond.

Y: What do you think of being called the smartest athlete in sports?

B: Probably more credit goes to Yale than goes to me. But there are plenty of worse nicknames that professional athletes have. It’s kind of become a joke among the guys now, and I can handle it.

Y: Do you ever feel like you have to do something to maintain that reputation?

B: Every once in a while I have fun and maybe try to speak definitively about something I really don’t know. But for the most part, when I come in here I think I do a pretty good job of being a ballplayer just like anybody else.

Y: You were born in New Haven, and you grew up in Trumbull. Did you always want to go to Yale?

B: No, actually Yale was the last place I thought I’d end up. It was just 20 minutes up the road, and as far as I was concerned, it was this place where geeks went to school. But I guess either I was one of those geeks or it just turned out that there were actually a lot of well-rounded students there.

Y: At what point did you start to think you had the talent to make the big leagues?

B: Once I got called up to the big leagues! I was always probably undersized—I didn’t throw as hard or garner as much attention as the big-time prospects, so it wasn’t until I actually got into the big leagues and started to have some success that I realized this is something I can do.

Y: When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

B: Well, I majored in molecular biophysics, and really, I thought I’d be in medical school by this point. Baseball was always the dream, and being a doctor was supposed to be the reality. It’s turned out kind of backwards.

Y: Is med school still something you think about down the road?

B: It’s something I think about. I can’t say for sure that ten years from now I’ll be in a med school classroom. Hopefully I’ll still be in the big leagues at that point.

Y: Being the only Yale alumnus in the majors for quite some time, do you ever feel like you have a responsibility to serve as the face of Yale’s baseball program?

B: A little bit. I remain in close contact with [Coach John Stuper], and I support the program as much as I can. If the Yale athletic department has used me as kind of a recruiting tool to be able to tell people, “Look, you can get a great education here, and you can still fulfill your dreams of playing in the big leagues,” I’m okay with that.

Y: What do your day-to-day responsibilities with the Strike 3 Foundation look like?

B: I try to do as much as I can, everything from networking to soliciting donations and speaking with corporations about trying to procure corporate sponsorships.

Y: What’s the deal with these pictures? [The photos above Breslow’s locker include one of Albert Einstein and one of an equation on a chalkboard.]

B: That’s from two years ago. Back then everybody had pictures up above their lockers. For whatever reason, most everyone else’s came down, but mine stayed up—I guess in reference to various aspects of academia.

Y: Did your teammates put those up or did you?

B: Oh, definitely my teammates.

Y: Do you know what the equation is?

B: Ah, I don’t know. Some kind of derivative or something.  


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