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Pro baseball player Jerry Owens: Another avenue

Having found different ways to prolong his career, Owens is in a good spot heading into 2010

Posted: December 13, 2009 10:04 p.m.
Updated: December 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Hart High School graduate Jerry Owens has bounced around Major League organizations ever since being drafted in 2003. But now, at age 28, Owens has a chance to make an impact in the majors this year with the Washington Nationals - the same franchise that drafted him when they were the Montreal Expos.

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In a sense, things have come full circle.

On a June day six years ago, the Montreal Expos made Hart High graduate and former The Master’s College baseball player Jerry Owens’ dreams come true.

Recently, the Washington Nationals — formerly known as the Montreal Expos — kept his dream alive.

Owens’ story of finding different avenues to prolong his athletic career has been well told.

This, it seems, is just another avenue.

“You live and you learn,” Owens says. “Things didn’t go exactly as I planned. Life is funny like that.”

Owens has leaned on his faith throughout his life.

It’s helped him to remain positive through the difficult times, which there have been plenty of in athletics.

Yet Owens, who has played 129 games in parts of four Major League seasons, is in a great place right now.

The 28-year-old signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals on Nov. 30, a one-year deal, because he will have an opportunity to make the big-league club out of spring training.

He had other options.

Owens says his agent was contacted by the Kansas City Royals, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians.

“The Nationals were really the only team that came strong and said I could help their big-league club this year,” Owens says.

Washington is not strong in the outfield.

The team traded for center fielder Nyjer Morgan last season and he took off after his arrival from Pittsburgh.

Morgan is a player similar to Owens in that both are known for their speed, but like Owens, Morgan is in his late 20s at 29 years old.

Left fielder Josh Willingham was also a 2009 arrival.

Willingham showed promise with the Florida Marlins in parts of five seasons and hit 24 home runs last year.

Other than those two, Washington has question marks.

Elijah Dukes hasn’t become the star he was expected to be.

The team’s top outfield prospect coming into 2009 was Michael Burgess, but he spent the season in Class-A and batted only .235.

Additionally, the Nationals finished 2009 with baseball’s worst record at 59-103.

Owens was a second-round pick out of The Master’s College in 2003 for the Expos.

He played baseball up to his sophomore year at Hart High, then gave up the sport to concentrate on football.

He received a scholarship to play football at UCLA as a wide receiver, but later left the school and surfaced at TMC where he resurrected his baseball career.

In 2005, he was traded by the Expos to the Chicago White Sox.

The next year, he made his Major League debut.

He had a solid rookie year in 2007, batting .267 and stealing 32 bases.

But in 2008, he hurt his groin in spring training and spent most of the season in Triple-A Charlotte.

He admits there was some frustration.

“Baseball’s what I love to do and what I’d like to do the rest of my career,” he says. “I was definitely frustrated. I had an idea how things would go in my head, but they took a U-turn.”

In 2009, Owens did not make the White Sox out of spring training and was placed on waivers.

He was not picked up and was outrighted to Charlotte.

Owens managed to make it back to the White Sox and played 12 games but was again assigned back to Charlotte.

But he had the option of becoming a free agent, which he did.

The Seattle Mariners picked Owens up and assigned him to the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers.

Owens had a big season for Tacoma, batting .323 with 23 stolen bases in 100 games.

Yet he was never brought up to the Mariners.

“I don’t know why,” he says. “It was kind of a humbling thing to be honest with you. I felt like I put up the numbers. Going back to the humbling part, I’m not a prospect anymore. They have prospects that they want to take a look at. It’s just the way it goes I guess.”

Owens says the thought of retirement crossed his mind at one point.

“I was praying about the retirement thing, then the next two weeks, I hit about .800,” Owens says. “I guess that’s my answer. I’m not done yet.”

Owens may have a new lease on his baseball life.

Washington is opportunity.

He’ll be 29 when he arrives at spring training, and there are countless players who have blossomed near the age of 30.

Take a guy like Marco Scutaro.

Scutaro didn’t become a regular in Major League Baseball until he was 28.

Now he’s 34, having just signed a two-year, $12.5 million deal with the Boston Red Sox.

“I’m excited for the upcoming season,” Owens says. “It’s kind of ‘Here we go again.’”


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