BY DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer
Matt Bowman is living the dream of every major college baseball player in the country.
Bowman, a Dayton High graduate and senior-to-be at the University of Nevada, is spending his summer vacation playing for the Orleans Cardinals in the Cape Cod League, which is the considered the most prestigious wood bat league in the country.
The Orleans squad is currently 18-9 and Bowman has played a big role in the team's success. He's played in 24 of its 27 games, starting 22. He's third on the team in hitting, with a respectable .276 average, one homer and seven RBI. He is 3-for-3 in steals and has an on-base percentage of .402.
Many might scoff when they see somebody hitting just .276. Trust me when I say that's a solid average for the Cape and Bowman was over the .300 mark until the last 10 days. There is always an adjustment period swinging a wood bat when you have played with aluminum during the college season.
"The pitching over here is amazing," Bowman said in a recent phone interview after helping with a clinic the team puts on for kids in the Orleans area on a daily basis. "You see some of the top pitchers in the country every night. It's like seeing No. 1 pitchers every night (for a whole season). You might face one guy (on a staff) that throws over 90. Here, every team seems to have two or three guys that do.
"I'm starting to feel a lot more comfortable the last few weeks. I came over here not expecting to hit a homer, but I got lucky. I was sitting on a 3-1 pitch and hit it on the barrel."
Bowman's manager. Kelly Nicholson, has been pleased with the play of the Nevada star.
"He's been doing really well; so far so good," Nicholson said. "I really don't know what his numbers are exactly, but we as a team, we struggled at the plate early. As a team, we're in the bottom half of the league in hitting. It takes a lot of guys halfway through the season to get adjusted. The pitching is so good night in and night out."
Besides his hitting, Bowman's versatility is a plus for the Cardinals. He's played second base, outfield, third base and designated hitter. His arm problems of last year appear to be ancient history.
"When we load up our line-up with right-handed hitters, he'll DH or play left," Nicholson said. "He does a good job in the outfield. When you can play more than one spot, you are really valuable."
Nicholson said he watched Bowman play against Fresno State this past season and he sat down with Nevada coach Gary Powers to get the low-down on Bowman.
"He wasn't recruited for this team to play the outfield," Nicholson said. "When I talked to Gary, he told me where Matt (could) play."
Bowman's best position probably is second base. He wasn't needed there at Nevada because of David Ciarlo. Now that Ciarlo has graduated, Bowman could see some time there when practice resumes in the fall.
"I feel it's my best position," Bowman said when asked about playing second base. "Wherever they need me to play, I'll play. If they need me to play outfield... My arm feels twice as good as it did during the (college) season. Hopefully it isn't an issue anymore.
"We have another second baseman from Loyola Marymount (Kyle Spraker). (Nicholson) told us that we would play on alternate days, and that he would try to use us in a DH role on certain days. Because of my arm, I was limited to second base (in the beginning). It took an adjustment to play second base because I hadn't played there in a couple of years. I struggled at the beginning."
Bowman's bat has kept him in the line-up, as Spraker has struggled at the plate and is hitting just .203.
Powers didn't say that second base belonged to Bowman, but he did say that the senior would get some work there as well as third and in the outfield.
Bowman's comment shouldn't come as any surprise. He has always put himself second and the team first. He's a leader by example, and very popular among his teammates.
"He's a great teammate," Nicholson said. "He's a Hall of Fame kid. I love to be around him. He reminds me of David Eckstein. He's just a gamer. He's very mature."
That maturity has helped Bowman overcome the disappointment of sitting out a season two years ago as well as being 3,000 miles away from family.
The one thing that has made his Cape Cod experience easier is that a Nevada teammate, first baseman Shaun Kort, also is on the Orleans squad.
"That has helped. It's nice to have somebody here I know (and like)," Bowman said. "We don't see each other much away from the field. He lives on the other side of town and neither of us have cars.
"The first year I played away from home, Drew Johnson was with me. In Santa Barbara, I didn't know anybody. When you first show up (anywhere new), you are always feeling everybody out. I've made some good friends here."
It would be hard not to like Bowman. He goes out and plays the game hard every day like it was meant to be played, and what teammate wouldn't respect and or like him because of that.
- Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com or (775) 881-1281