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Tampa Bay Rays pitching prospect Blake Bivens spoke publicly for the first time since he lost his wife, toddler and mother-in-law last August to a triple-homicide in Virginia.
Bivens, 24, shared the details of how he learned of his family’s death on Facebook during a live conversation with The River Church (Danville, Virginia) interim senior pastor Travis Gore.
His wife, Emily, 14-month-old son Cullen and mother-in-law, Joan Bernard, were killed Aug. 28. His brother-in-law, Matthew Bernard, was arrested and is awaiting trial.
Bivens learned of family’s death on Facebook
Bivens, who was playing with the Double-A team in Montgomery, Alabama, at the time, said he knew something was wrong when he didn’t wake up to his standard text message from Emily. He then couldn’t reach her or anyone else in the extended family.
He said he then saw something on Facebook about his brother-in-law, who was 18, being sought by police. The Rays arranged for him to fly home and as he was waiting for a flight he saw the news on Facebook.
“First headline I see is two females and a small child were gone,” Bivens said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “I immediately knew that was them. I found out my family was gone over a Facebook headline. I just immediately began to scream in the middle of the airport.’’
Bivens thanked the Rays organization for their support. Montgomery manager Morgan Ensberg flew with him from where the team was playing in Chattanooga, and they were joined by security chief Jim Previtera and Vince Lodato in Charlotte for a connecting flight and the drive to Keeling, Virginia.
“It’s almost kind of like, ‘This isn’t really happening.' I was more in a state of shock,” he said. “I would go through periods of shaking. Then I would start to lose it a little bit and break down and cry. It was kind of like a circle. The plane rides just seemed like they took forever.”
He took the rest of the season away from the team, visiting Tropicana Field once in September with his father to see teammates and his bosses. He pitched this winter in Australia to get away and planned to pitch this season before the COVID-19 crisis brought games to a halt.
Bivens leaning on faith
Bivens shared with the church how he leaned on his faith.
“When I read, ‘Take heart, for I have overcome the world,’ it changed, it completely flipped a switch in my heart. And from that moment on I knew that this was not going to beat me, this was not going to beat family.”
He has posted photos to Instagram to celebrate his family at certain milestones, such as Emily’s 25th birthday in October and their fourth wedding anniversary in January.
Two weeks after the tragedy, he shared a photo of Emily’s planners and notebooks. She wrote that she would use social media to share her relationship with God, make better connections and “be a better friend.” He vowed in the comment to do the same himself. A few weeks ago he also introduced a new member of the family in Jax, a beagle puppy.
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