MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Montgomery Biscuits and Tampa Bay Rays opened up Thursday about a tragedy that hit one of the organization’s players this week.
Pitcher Blake Bivens’ wife, son and mother-in-law were murdered at a home in western Virginia Tuesday morning.
It was an emotional afternoon Thursday as several representatives from the Biscuits and Rays expressed their support for Bivens and spoke about how they are dealing with this news within the team and organization.
“This is a terrible time for us and we also understand that a lot of the players, and ourselves included, we don’t know how to handle these type of situations,” said Biscuits Manager Morgan Ensberg. “I know that I’ve gone through bouts of crying, I’ve gone through bouts of just not understanding, but luckily we have a lot of support here, we also have local people that are coming in to make sure that our players and our staff are okay.”
Ensberg said this type of event is something you simply just don’t plan for.
“We’re trying to handle this thing as best we can. This is something you don’t prepare for, and we know that whatever emotion we’re feeling at the time is an appropriate emotion,” Ensberg said.
Police discovered the bodies of 25-year-old Emily Bernard Bivens, 14-month-old Cullen Bivens, and 62-year-old Joan Bernard Tuesday morning. Emily Bivens’ brother, Matthew Bernard, is charged with three counts of murder in the deaths. He was taken into custody Tuesday while running naked from law enforcement.
Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor said he doesn’t know a motive and would only say “we’re still working on that.” Authorities said Matthew Bernard was under suicide watch.
At the time of the deaths, Blake Bivens was in Chattanooga, Tenn., for the Biscuits’ series against the Lookouts.
Ensberg says he’ll never forget seeing Bivens’ face after he’d heard the news.
“It was one of scare, it was nervous. He didn’t know what was going on, he couldn’t get in contact with his family and so we knew something was obviously wrong,” Ensberg said.
Ensberg said shortly after learning what happened, Biscuits management got into contact with the Rays as well as Major League Baseball, and Bivens was soon departing in a car headed to the airport to get back home.
Ensberg said after he learned what happened, he too hopped in a car and headed for the airport. Their scheduled double-header against the Chattanooga Lookouts was cancelled for that day.
Thursday, Bivens posted on social media, sharing a photo on Instagram of his wife, mother-in-law and son. The post opens by saying, “Two days ago my heart was turned to ash. My life as I knew it is destroyed.”
Biscuits pitching coach R.C. Lichtenstein said one of the things a player looks forward to most after a game is seeing family. He says whenever Bivens was battling the ups and downs that come with being a pro baseball player, he always had his family to comfort him after the game.
“At the end of the game when you see your family it doesn’t matter whether you’ve won or lost anymore,” said Lichtenstein. “For him to have that during his disposal at that time knowing how much he loved family, you looked at him and you always thought highly of him.”
“To see him have that family was very comforting,” said Lichtenstein when recalling seeing Bivens hold his son just moments before he’d take the mound to pitch.
Fighting back tears Ensberg said that at this moment, baseball is keeping the team and the organization together.
“There’s not a single person in there [Biscuits clubhouse] thinking about baseball, there’s not a single person up here thinking about baseball,” said Ensberg. “The only part about baseball that we’re still thankful for is that we’re together and that we do at least have a support system within this area, but nobody’s thinking about baseball.”
One of Bivens’ best friends on the team is fellow pitcher Ryan Thompson. Thompson got emotional talking about the kind of teammate Bivens is and what everyone’s support means not only to Bivens but the organization.
“Blake’s an amazing man. Blake’s an incredible teammate, he’s an incredible friend. He’s very professional on the field, he never lets the game get in the way of who he is as a human being. He’s such a great guy and something like this couldn’t happen to a better human being, and I just wanted to say that we are so thankful for all the people who have shown him their love in this time, and like Morgan [Ensberg] said, it’s really hard for us to know how to comfort him and nothing apart from God can ease his pain at this time, but all the people who are praying for him, all the people who are giving him money in the GoFundMe, all the people who are sending him messages, all the people that’s not just the Biscuits, not just the baseball community, but everybody in this country, it’s really really incredible and we just want to say thank you for that,” said Thompson moments before breaking down into tears.
Thompson later went on to speak about how he believes Bivens’ faith will get him through this tragedy.
“One thing that’s really important for people to know about Blake is he’s an incredible disciple of Christ and his family is too, and that can give us the slightest little bit of peace in that hatred and evil doesn’t exist anymore. They are in a place that is apart from that, sitting next to God, and all we can do now is just be there for Blake,” Thompson said. “There’s no thing, there’s nothing in this world that can ease his pain, we just have to be there for him.”
According to the Biscuits, Blake Bivens is from Sutherlin, Va., and he was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the fourth round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of Washington High School in Danville, Va. He was assigned to the Biscuits in 2019. Blake and his wife Emily were married in January 2016 and welcomed their son Cullen in June 2018.
A celebration of Emily’s and Cullen’s lives will be held Saturday in Danville, Virginia at Central Boulevard Church of God.
The Montgomery Biscuits will be attending the funeral services and have moved their scheduled game Saturday to Friday as part of a double-header beginning at 4 p.m.
“This is a reminder that we all have family and we all have loved ones and that in a split-seconds your life can be completely upended,” Ensberg said.
The Biscuits are already working on getting patches to wear on their uniforms in support of Bivens for the rest of the season. Biscuits General Manager Mike Murphy says the Biscuits will also observe a moment of silence before their game Thursday night against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos and will have “Biv” painted just behind the Biscuits logo behind home plate.
Murphy also said the Tampa Bay Rays will observe a moment of silence for Bivens just before their next home game Friday against the Cleveland Indians.
There was a scheduled jersey auction Friday to benefit the River Region United Way. Murphy says River Region United Way will have that money instead donated to the Bivens family.