FUTURE LOOKS 'BRITE' FOR JOHN BOWKER
For local product John Bowker, the future looks
bright. Hell, it's his middle name, as in "Brite,"
which he inherited from his father (Brite Bowker). Although, if you were to ask the
native Sacramentan after last night's loss at Raley Field, he may not be so encouraged.
Bowker took a rare 0-5 for the extra-inning affair, and left the
plate mumbling to himself after striking out in the ninth with a runner on second. Which may
have been due, in part, to his role in a misplayed fly ball in center field the inning
In the bottom of the eighth, with the Grizzlies holding a 3-2
lead, RiverCats' Steve Tolleson hit a long drive
to deep left center. Center fielder Eugenio Velez, whose long, lean body type
would blend perfectly on planet Pandora, easily would have made the catch. But Bowker, the left
fielder, and Velez arrived simultaneously, their gloves stretched across their bodies,
effectively canceling each other, while the ball dropped to the warning
track. As Velez picked up the ball beneath the retired Number One jersey on the outfield
fence, it seemed that Art Savage had provided a heavenly assist.
Savage, the RiverCats former team owner, passed away last fall and the
team honored him with the retired jersey on the wall.
Official scorer Mark Honbo hustled to the press box video
monitor, and after studying two super slow motion replays, ruled it a triple for Tolleson. "If
that's an error, who do I give it to?" Honbo wondered aloud. One batter later, Matt
Watson drove in the tying run.
Moments after the outfield misplay, Bowker came to bat and had
an embarrassing three-pitch strikeout, missing an off-speed pitch down and
Bowker says his
approach is to play each game "one pitch at a time, being 'in the present' all the time." He
admits it's a challenge, especially when "you're out there thinking of past failures, or even
successes, which can take your focus away from seeing that pitch or seeing the ball in the
outfield." In a pre-game interview, he seemed to have
a premonition of the play in the eighth inning.
Bowker admitted that he needs work more on his outfield play.
But he was sent down by the Giants this spring to make room for Pat Burrell, a journeyman
slugging outfielder, and to work on hitting lefties.
Grizzlies' skipper Steve Decker is high on
Bowker, who led the Pacific Coast League last season with a .342 average, 21 home runs and 82
runs batted in. Bowker, who was sent down to Fresno in late May, needs to get some at
bats, relax, and learn how to add to his hitting arsenal. "You don't always need
a home run to win the game. Sometimes, you need to take the ball the other
Before the game, Grizzlies' batting coach Ken Joyce was working
with Bowker in the cage, trying to get him to incorporate a more fluid approach in his
backswing. One of the other Grizzlies players, waiting his turn, asked about RiverCats' starter
John Halama's style. "Slow, slower and pfftttt,"
Joyce responded. He advised Bowker to "stay back" against the 38-year-old pitcher. "He's not
going to beat you," he said, referring to the crafty lefty's
Despite the forewarning and preparation, Halama, and the rest of
the RiverCats staff, served Bowker nothing but pfftttt, frustrating the young hitter all night. Although it
won't go down as a memorable game, it was a learning experience. Bowker admits he's back in the
Pacific Coast League to improve on his overall consistency.
Decker, who played his last year of pro ball in 2000 for
Sacramento, complimented Bowker on having a great work ethic. It shows: his shoulders and
forearms looks like he's been working in the Pennsylvania coal mines instead of the minor
leagues. It comes from a regimented off-season routine he's learned over time from local
trainers and the Giants staff.
A three-sport athlete at Rio Americano, in his senior season
John set a school record by hitting .463, with eight home runs and 41 RBI. Yet, those stats only
earned him a spot on the second team All-City roster in 2001. He attributes it in part to
playing for a school not known for its baseball program, and notes that other players
like Dustin Pedroia and J.P. Howell--both stars
now in the major leagues--grabbed a huge
amount of attention in Sacramento. But the self-effacing Sacramentan isn't one to complain
or offer excuses.
Even Grizzly teammate veteran catcher Steve Holm enjoys hometown
bragging rights when it comes to post season accolades. Holm was named first team All-City
twice at McClatchy High (1996 and 1997). Bowker was surprised to learn that a number of local
talents didn't make All-City and went on to illustrious careers, such as Larry Bowa,
Chris Bosio and another long-time player who shares his initials, Johnnie B. "Dusty"
After high school, Bowker batted .323 in three seasons at Long
Beach State, earning a trip to the super regional tournament, where he hit a home run. The
Giants drafted him in the third round of the 2004 first-year player draft. "They really stress
the fundamentals there (Long Beach State) and coming in to pro ball, I thought I was ahead of
lot of guys."
After an impressive rookie year with the Giants in 2008 when he
hit .255/10/43 in 110 games, he had fewer opportunities last year and his numbers declined. This
spring, Bowker broke training camp with the Giants as the starting right fielder. It wasn't long
before Nate Schierholtz secured the spot, shoving Bowker to the bench. When the Giants
signed Burrell in May, and brought up Buster Posey to play first base, it left a plethora of
outfielders, and Bowker was sent packing to Fresno.
One positive bit of news came this week when the Giants traded
catcher Bengie Molina to Texas. This gave Posey the primary catching job, moved Aubrey Huff
back to first, and left four outfielders in San Francisco.
One long-time RiverCats official groused if the Giants don't
plan to use him, they should do Bowker a favor and trade him to a club that needs a solid
Either way, Bowker remains cautiously optimistic. He's striving
for consistency while waiting for his third chance at the major leagues. "If I keep working
hard, things will work out," he offers.
For that reason alone, his future looks
by Editor--Rick Cabral