|Richie and Robby Rowland walk off the field at a |
North Coast Section baseball tournament in 2006.
(Rowland Family Photo)
"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 our lineup."
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 World Series.
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 benefit from.
"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 played together.