Richie and Robby Rowland report to the D'Backs rookie league Tuesday.
Growing up as his younger brother's catcher in their back
yard, Campbellsville University junior Richie Rowland and his brother
Robby dreamed of playing in the pros like their dad. The two will now make that
a reality when they sign contracts with the Arizona Diamondbacks this weekend
and report together to the Missoula (Mont.) Ospreys on Tuesday for rookie
The move will put the brothers on the same team for the first time since playing at Cloverdale (Calif.) High School in 2007.
"It's going to be amazing. It' something we've talked about
our whole life. It's one of those things you talk about your whole life but you
never imagine it will happen. It's just surreal. We're all on cloud nine,"
Richie and Robby Rowland walk off the field at a North Coast Section baseball tournament in 2006. (Rowland Family Photo)
Robby, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound right-handed pitcher from Cloverdale, was drafted in the third round of the Major League Baseball First-Year
Player Draft as the 88th overall pick Tuesday. He will forgo an opportunity to play college ball at the University of Oregon, which he committed to in November. As a senior at Cloverdale, he went 7-1 with a
0.32 ERA, striking out 117 batters in 65 innings
Richie, a 6-foot-3,
230-pound catcher, was on the draft board for four MLB clubs, but not for the
Diamondbacks. Since Arizona was left out of position to draft the CU Tiger catcher, they
decided to make Richie a deal Wednesday - decline any draft offers and play with his
brother. The post-draft free agent offer was a no brainer for the Rowlands and the other clubs involved in Richie's baseball future,
including CU head coach Beauford Sanders.
"I'm excited for him personally and happy for the family," Sanders said. "We're
going to have to really work hard to find someone that's going to impact us
like Richie did. He was a fine receiver for us and sure made a difference in
That difference included winning the Mid-South Conference Gold Glove award as a
catcher and leading the team's offense in hitting (.372), RBIs (61) and home
runs (11). He was second on the team for doubles with 15. His led all
players during the 2010 NAIA Baseball Tournament Opening Round in Joliet, Ill.,
for home runs, hitting two shots to right field with the wind blowing in,
helping CU to a 42-22 record and narrowly missing a trip to the Avista-NAIA
On the bus ride home from the tournament, Richie took a seat next to Sanders and talked about the choice of a possible chance with a
MLB club or returning to Campbellsville in 2011.
"It was tough," Richie said. "It's like I told Coach
Sanders, after spending a year with that program and being with Coach Sanders,
Coach Chris Lewis, Coach Randy LeBleu and Coach Scott Hortness, and seeing what they're
all about and having been a part of that team and chemistry it was really going
to take a legit deal to be pulled away."
He got his legit deal, and says he owes part of it to CU.
"When I was in high school my power numbers were decent but when I hit the
junior college scene I saw a lot of velocity and it kind of snapped them. When
I got to Campbellsville I felt confident and it was time to let go and quit
worrying about things. That's when I started hitting the ball," Richie said. "I
will promote that program until the day I die."
Richie is the second CU Tiger in as many years to sign a post-draft free agent
deal, joining 2009 CU third baseman Chris Curley, who signed with the Atlanta
Braves. Numerous 2010 teammates are participating in MLB tryouts this summer.
Keeping it in the Family
Richie was introduced to life as a pro baseball player
while still in his mother Carol's womb. While Carol was pregnant with Richie,
his dad, Rich, was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the summer of 1988 and
reporting to rookie ball in Bristol, Tenn., thus beginning the Rowland's life
of baseball. Over the next 10 years there were plenty of games and moves for the Rowlands, including 98 games in "The Show" with the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox.
"Richie was a young boy and probably has vague memories of
running around the bases in Toledo, Ohio. In Scottsdale (Ariz.), they used to
be able to come onto the field after a win," Rich said of his days with the
Tigers' AAA team and later with the San Francisco Giants club. "Somewhere there's
photos of him toeing the rubber at Scottsdale or Candlestick Park."
Being able to rely on dad's experience is something Richie and Robby look to
"They've been groomed for this ever since they've been able to comprehend what's
in store. I think that's the advantage that ex-players' kids have," Carol said.
"Those players have a little bit of an advantage because they know what it
takes. We know how hard it is to pack up and move every six months. It's always
a battle … We've given them all the horror stories."
Though Carol said Richie and Robby both had a ball or bat in their hands when
they each came out of the womb, Rich says they were never pushy parents.
"We let our kids do what they wanted to do and that's what made
our kids be what they are today," Rich said. "They did it all on their own time
and own desires."
Rich did attempt to push once. After retiring at time when he saw an increasing
number of foreign catchers coming into the sport, Rich tried to encourage his
eldest son to become a pitcher. While Richie pitched some, he stuck it out
behind the plate.
"He took it as more of a challenge then a smart move and got
better to prove me wrong," Rich said. "Robby took to the reasoning that
Americans pitch ... By design it (having a pitcher and catcher) worked for them
to get the most out of workouts and to be able to practice and get better."
Robby now follows in his brother's path as a draft pick out of high school.
Richie was selected in the 40th round of the 2007 MLB Draft by the
Colorado Rockies, but opted for junior college instead. That helped both
players be in position for this week's events. While Robby developed more as a
pitcher by having a draftee catcher for an older brother, Richie developed
longevity and patience with his three years of college ball.
"I think he's learned a lot by going to Campbellsville, not only patience but
how to adjust. You have to be adaptable for the longer seasons. College gave
Richie a chance to play a lot of games," said Rich of his son, who now shares
the CU record for most games played in a season (62).
Now a near 80-game season waits in the minors. The brothers will make their pro roster debut June 21 when the Missoula Osprey travel to open the season at the Helena Brewers in Helena,
Mont. - the first of what they hope to be many games
"It's phenomenal for us," Rich said. "We
anticipated them going different directions … We're happy to just have them
both playing and we're fortunate to have them both on the same squad. It works
great for us and I think it will work well for Arizona, because I built them to
be the battery."