Throughout the history of sittingstill.net there have been players who have played major roles in my photography and in the site’s character, though they’ll likely never know it. And as another July draws toward a trade deadline close, and I develop my yearly ulcer worrying about the names that get bandied about, I keep coming back to pitching prospect Michael Bowden.
March 9, 2007
The first time I saw Bowden pitch was my last day at Spring Training in 2007. There was no Sox game the day we flew out, so we decided to hit the minor league complex before heading to the airport. This was my first trip to the complex, and I had had no idea how much fun it would be. Players of all levels, everywhere! We watched some workouts, and then they called together a minigame where Clay Buchholz pitched against Michael Bowden. And I knew, instantly, that this would be a day I’d never forget.
By this time I had a full week under my belt with the new Canon, and the only challenge I had was finding clear shots through the openings in the chain link fence! Everything else was ideal–the bright sun, the chance to run around for different angles, the pitchers I’d read so much about and was dying to see.
While Bowden was on the mound I went to the far end of the “dugout” on the third base line. When he finished the inning, he and the pitching coach came right to where I was. It’s relatively rare that you get to see a pitcher up close right off the mound. I’ve never been so aware of what work pitching is as seeing Bowden walk in, in the Florida heat, flushed and breathing heavily–and unhappy with himself. The coach was telling him he was hitting his spots, but he was clearly not pleased with his results. It was at that point that both Bowden and the coach seemed to realize I was there. The coach shot me a look that said “I’m not sure you should be this close.” And Bowden shot me a look that said–well, “said” is the wrong word; you’d need a wordless visual, say, a volcano exploding in flaming lava. It suddenly seemed like a really good idea to shoot from the first base line. And perhaps to run to get there!
Terrified or no, I had a great day of shooting, and when I got home and posted photos, the minor league shots were so well received that I realized I had another calling. I’d already found that the sorts of photos I enjoyed taking of the major leaguers were the candids, the offbeat shots, the ones not being published in most media–but there was hardly anything being published of the minor leaguers at all. While I had fewer opportunities to see games in the minors, I tried harder to shoot when I went to Pawtucket, or when call-ups had their first looks at Fenway, either with the big club or at Futures at Fenway (where the starter for Portland in 2007 was none other than Michael Bowden!).
August 11, 2007
And this year at Spring Training I tried hard to document as many different players as I could–including young Mr. Bowden, of course!
With Kyle Snyder and Justin Masterson, March 2, 2008
March 3, 2008
With Justin Masterson, March 6, 2008
March 7, 2008
March 8, 2008
But over the offseason, I also had a few chances to encounter him in very different settings. First was at New Stars for Young Stars, at which he could not have been more charming and gave me no impression at all that he might possibly kill me with a look alone.
Next, he was one of the players tapped for the Rookie Development Program, all of whom signed for the adoring masses who filled the Team Store. And finally, he appeared at McCoy Stadium for the PawSox Hot Stove party, foreshadowing what we all supposed would be a midyear callup from Portland.
With Jed Lowrie, January 19, 2008
He put up terrific numbers with the Sea Dogs this year: an ERA of 2.33, K/9 rate of 8.71, K/BB 4.21, WHIP of 0.92 with batters hitting .192 against him. I suspect he was held in Portland until midseason in order to earn his All-Star selection and sort some things out with the PawSox roster. But as I expected, he got his mid-July call. His first start, sadly for me, was on the road (though we did get to see him in uniform on July 20).
July 20, 2008
And it may not have been the debut he’d hoped for, giving up 3 runs in 4 innings–but I suspect he’s glad to have it out of the way.
As I could have told you from my first encounter with him, Bowden’s extremely intense on the mound, and it’s hard to find a piece about him that doesn’t refer both to his competitive fire and to his love of baseball. The Sox sent him to API last offseason, and while I could never see where Clay Buchholz supposedly added those ten pounds, Bowden certainly looked more powerful this year. And his early struggles in Portland this year, followed by the hard work and breakthrough that led to a dazzling string of games, encourage me that he’ll make the adjustment to AAA and then to the majors. Like Justin Masterson, he’s a young pitcher I not only believe in but want to believe in. For now, I’m looking forward to seeing–and shooting!–him in Pawtucket!