Bridgewater, NJ – It’s not often a player with “former Major League Baseball pitcher” on his resume participates in an open try out to make a minor league baseball team but for 30 year old Travis Bowyer, this was a unique opportunity to rekindle some magic.
The past seven years have been arduous for Bowyer, but earlier this month he beat out over 70 participants at the Somerset Patriots open tryout. He knew something special was finally on the horizon.
“It’s been a total blessing,” the humble Bowyer said. “I’ve been dreaming of a moment like this for quite some time. The hard work paid off. To have a second opportunity to play the sport I love, this is great.”
Bowyer’s known for befuddling batters with his sinking fastball. In 430.2 career minor league innings, he has 422 career strikeouts.
In 2005, the Minnesota Twins called Bowyer up to the big leagues. As a 23 year old flame throwing reliever with a locker across from two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, Bowyer was living out his dream.
The neophyte was an asset for the Twins but the organization traded him at the July 31st trade deadline for an older Luis Castillo as the Twins were in the thick of a playoff race and the Florida Marlins were rebuilding at the time.
2005 was the apex of Bowyer’s career. Since, there have been many trials and tribulations as he has strived to get back to the top.
In Spring Training of 2006, Bowyer felt discomfort in his shoulder. The coaching staff of the Marlins shut him down for the first half of that year and in the middle of that season he underwent rotator cuff surgery that sidelined him for the next 18 months.
In Spring Training of 2008, Bowyer tried to pitch again but the aches and pains still plagued him.
“I made a bold decision to step away from the game a little bit,” said Bowyer. “My body didn’t feel right. I wanted to try and let my body heel on its own.”
The past four years Bowyer has played in recreational men’s baseball leagues in Delaware and Florida to stay in shape. He even worked out at local YMCA’s during his baseball travels.
Last June he shifted his focus and wanted to serve in the military. He swore in for the Army enlisting to become an Army Diver. Weeks before heading out to Missouri for boot camp and training, Bowyer tore his ACL playing pickup basketball with friends. Scratch the Army plans as he was back in a place where he had been numerous times before; the doctor’s office.
The next 10 months, Bowyer rehabbed his surgically repaired knee by working at an Apple Orchard in Bedford, Virginia. The manual labor helped facilitate Bowyer’s rehab process.
Over the winter, he reached out to Matt Hagen, former Somerset Patriot and current assistant coach at Liberty University, the college just minutes from where Bowyer calls home in Lynchburg, Virginia. Hagen put Bowyer in contact with current Somerset Patriots pitcher Mike Solbach. Bowyer and Solbach started a synchronized throwing program together in order to get their arms back into top notch form. Solbach told Bowyer about the Patriots open try out and Bowyer gave baseball one last chance.
Bowyer impressed Director of Player Personnel and Pitching Coach Brett Jodie at the tryout.
“Travis’s fastball has been amazing so far,” said Jodie. “He’s got his juices flowing. I’m very happy with his work ethic and the way he’s throwing. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I think it would be a great story to see him bounce back and get back to the big leagues. He’s got an opportunity here.”
Bowyer has a plethora of pitches and should be a key asset in the bullpen this year for the Patriots. He’s truly cherishing each moment and does not take anything for granted.
“I’m just going to come in here and do whatever the coaches ask of me,” said Bowyer. “I’m just trying to contribute.”