Feature | Former Pitt pitcher Blair Calvo representing the Panthers in the Big Leagues


Nate Yonamine | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt’s baseball team huddles on the field during its game against Louisville on April 3, 2022.

By Dylan Grace, Staff Writer

The path to the big leagues for many young players is a long, complicated journey filled with many ups, downs, twists and turns. 

Only about 10 percent of minor-league baseball players make the majors, with just seven percent of players drafted after the 20th round getting the chance to fulfill their big-league dreams. So for a 26th-round draft pick, the odds of making the bigs are slim to none.

Former Panther RHP Blair Calvo beat those odds when he made his major league debut last month for the Colorado Rockies. Calvo made his Major League Debut for the Rockies in an eighth-inning appearance against the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he pitched an impressive 1-2-3 inning for Colorado on only 11 pitches. 

Calvo announced his commitment to Pitt after receiving the Florida Junior College Pitcher of the Year award his first-year at Eastern Florida State College. Just before his 2017 season at Pitt, Calvo dealt with a UCL injury, which led to Tommy John surgery. In his first full season at Pitt, Calvo started in 13 games, where he showed great promise in several appearances for the Panthers, but he still struggled. Calvo proved he had lights-out potential, striking out 45 batters while posting a 21 percent K rate. 

After his 2018 campaign in Oakland, Calvo opted to transfer to Flager for his final year of eligibility. Calvo appeared in 49 innings in his senior season, improving his strikeout rate to an impressive 24 percent. With high punchout potential, the Colorado Rockies drafted Calvo 699th overall in the 2019 MLB Draft.

Calvo, in four seasons for the Colorado Rockies organization, has appeared in 101 games, recording 190 strikeouts in 157 innings pitched. Calvo’s effective numbers, highlighted by an outstanding 10.82 Ks per nine innings, proved his major league potential.

In a May 31, 2022 outing against the Reading Fightin’ Phils, Calvo experienced shortness of breath, prompting him to leave the game and go to the hospital. At the hospital, the doctor informed Calvo that he had ventricular tachycardia — a heart condition that causes an abnormal heart rate. One doctor even went as far as to inform Calvo that he may not play professionally again.

For Blair Calvo, that was not an option.

Calvo continued to follow his dream, clearing protocol to return to the minors months after his diagnosis. When asked about his decision to continue playing, Calvo explained his decision to The Denver Post.

“It’s a game I’ve played my entire life and something I have dedicated every single day of my life to,” Calvo said. “I’ve been playing since I was 4, and it’s what I love to do. I love to show up at the park every day and put the pants on and put the cleats on and then go out and compete. Now it’s competing against some of the best players in the world.”

Calvo continued his on-field success in 2023, posting 11.86 strikeouts per nine innings. This outstanding production caused Calvo to receive a call from the Rockies. The team informed him that he must pack his bags and head to Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. On May 30, Calvo got to fulfill his lifetime dream and travel with the Rockies for their away series. 

Calvo came into the game facing the heart of a red-hot Diamondbacks order. Diamondbacks’ National League Left Fielder of the Month, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., served as Calvo’s first major league faceoff. After falling behind two balls to no strikes, Calvo got a groundout to the second baseman Harold Castro. 

In the next at-bat, power threat Christian Walker stepped up to the plate. Calvo threw a 93 miles per hour sinker in on the hands of Walker, getting him to line out to third basemen Ryan McMahon for the second out of the inning. Facing three-time All-Star Evan Longoria, Calvo delivered another nasty sinker, causing Longoria to jam the ball to second base for the third out of the inning.

His first appearance in the bigs wasn’t easy — but Calvo certainly made it look that way. 

Nearly a year to the day after a possible career-ending diagnosis and a career filled with setbacks, perseverance and hard work, Calvo finally achieved his dream.