It was not too long ago that Craig Breslow was a fringe major league pitcher, known around the league as the "smartest man in baseball." The label was well-deserved, considering the Yale graduate's bachelor's degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. Breslow is one of those people that you know is smart from the moment he says something.
But for four years and counting, Breslow has thrown in 60 games or more and has not had an era greater than 3.79. The 33-year-old is now more than the smartest man in baseball, he's an established major league reliever, and a pretty damn good one at that.
During the 2013 Red Sox World Series run, Breslow established himself as one of the most reliable arms in the bullpen and turned in the best overall performance of his career, posting a 1.81 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP and 14 holds, posting a 1.6 WAR. As his career becomes more and more established, Breslow began to combine two of his passions: baseball and medicine.
Last June, Breslow hosted the first annual Sip Happens to benefit the Strike 3 Foundation with then-Red Sox reliever Andrew Bailey. The charity, started by Breslow in 2008, raises money for a cause close to Breslow's heart.
"The impetus there was that my older sister, Leslie, who is a 25-year childhood cancer survivor, and while I always thought that my impact on the medical community would be as a physician, it turns out my baseball career kind of took hold," Breslow said. "I've had a chance to connect with the medical world through the work of Strike 3 and we recognize that Boston is the mecca of medical research and there is an incredible academic medical community in the city and fans are so passionate about the Red Sox that we had a chance to marry the two by taking advantage of my access to the organization to my teammates being able to come out and support the event and knowing that a number of generous donors and members of the Boston community would appreciate that opportunity and also help us raise some meaningful dollars."
After hosting the event last year in Brookline, the Strike 3 Foundation will hold the event at the Boston Children's Museum on May 19. The success of last year's wine tasting event confirmed to Breslow and his wife the nature of the greater-Boston community.
"Being able to host the event confirmed how special and close knit this Boston community is and particularly how passionate they are about the Boston Red Sox," Breslow said. "I think even more than that is just a commitment to philanthropy and a mission that those who are fortunate enough to have some dispensable or discretionary income can really have a positive effect on this community knowing that a number of the dollars that we raised were used to support oncologists at Dana Farber."
One of the major benefactors of the event will be childhood cancer researchers.
"We feel very strongly about giving back to the community in which we fundraise and to that end, we support young investigator awards given out by the American society for Clinical Oncology which are $50,000 grants to fellows who are looking for money to fund their projects," Breslow said. "We've insisted on those research awards being Boston-based for the last two years so as I said, last year and this year, they'll be oncologists from Dana Farber and so people who support this event can do so knowing that the dollars that we raise are actually going to benefit Boston."
In regards to his health, Breslow feels strong after starting the season on the disabled list and believes that he is getting back to the place that the was last year.
"I feel strong and getting stronger and getting built up, getting my arm strength back to where it should be," Breslow said. "As we head into the second month of the season, I feel like my best days are definitely ahead of me but overall, I'm feeling good."
Breslow does not have any limitations at the moment and his current path of work is getting back into his routine and racking up the innings to resume his role as a late-inning reliever for the team.
"It's just a matter of going out and pitching so that I can hone my baseball skills," Breslow said. "These are more baseball-type feelings than medical feelings."
Breslow has put behind his struggles from late in the postseason is fully focused on helping the team compete for a World Series.
"My goal every year is to help the team win the World Series, however I can do that," Breslow said. "Fortunately, it's been on the field for last season, but I feel like there is something I can do every day to help our team win, whether that is talking about baseball, somebody who is going to pitch that night or contributing myself and I feel like that's the goal of the 25 guys, which is what makes ours such a special unit, just that every day, 25 guys show up at the park and try to figure out a way to help the team."
Moving forward, Breslow believes that as his career becomes more established, the potential for a career in the medical field diminishes (Breslow was accepted to medical school at New York University). That being said, Breslow hopes to remain connected to the medical community through his charity work.
"My guess is that medicine will always be something of interest to me," Breslow said. "The question will be what I do with that interest. As my career become more firmly established, and that's been with time inside the game, it's more difficult to envision leaving it but that being said, my passion for medicine will always remain strong through going to medical school at some point or continuing to grow this organization, I think there will always remain a question."
Tickets to Sip Happens can be purchased here. Guests at the event include Craig Breslow and various Red Sox teammates, Ben Mezrich and MIT Blackjack team member Jeffrey Ma (The inspiration for the movie "21"). The Strike 3 Foundation heightens awareness, mobilizes support and raises funding for pediatric cancer research. For more information, visit their website.