NEW BRITAIN - TT Bowens didnâ€™t watch the MLB draft.
As a small-school prospect from the Northeast and with the draft being shortened to five rounds instead of the usual 40 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound first baseman-outfielder knew his chances of being selected were slim. Maybe he would be a fifth-round pick, maybe not. Instead, he decided to spend that Friday and Saturday - June 10 and 11 - hanging out at home.
â€śI just treated it like any other day,â€ť Bowens said. â€śI was hanging out with my family. I checked my phone and saw some updates on Twitter. That was about it.â€ť
The Los Angeles Dodgers ended up calling in the final round. But nothing came of it. As it turned out, Bowens, Central Connecticut Stateâ€™s All-NEC slugger, had to wait another day - Sunday - before he had some tough choices to make.Â
Bowens received a call from the Baltimore Orioles, the first day major league teams could reach out to undrafted players. He also heard from the Boston Red Sox and the Washington Nationals. There was also the possibility of returning to school for another season of collegiate baseball. He was exploring transfer options.
In the end, Bowens wanted to begin his professional baseball career. On Tuesday, he signed with the Orioles, becoming the 10th Blue Devil over the past six seasons to sign with a professional organization.Â
â€śIt definitely was very exciting,â€ť Bowens said of his decision. â€śI had a lot of decisions to make going into this. I still had two years of eligibility left. I had already graduated and was looking at playing at a bigger program. But I felt comfortable with Baltimore. The Orioles reached out to me multiple times. I was able to speak to a bunch of different people in the organization and felt they have the organization in place to reach my future goal.
â€śObviously, being a professional baseball player is every kid's dream and has been my entire life. Itâ€™s hard to turn that down.â€ť
Yet it was anything but a normal draft process experience for Bowens or any of the other draft-eligible prospects.Â
Bowens had steadily raised his profile over his three seasons with the Blue Devils and began to appear more frequently on scoutsâ€™ radars thanks to a strong showing at the end of the 2019 collegiate season and during the summer.
He returned from an injury to play the final 32 games of the 2019 season and batted .376 with a .640 slugging percentage down the stretch, hitting five home runs and driving in 26 runs. Bowens earned All-NEC Second Team honors as CCSU staved off elimination in the NEC Tournament to win the conference title and another trip to the NCAA Tournament. There he continued to showcase his ability, hitting a three-run homer and drove in five runs at fifth-ranked Arkansas in the regional opener and helped the program capture its first NCAA Tournament win the next day with a victory over No. 24 California.
Bowens further boosted his profile with a strong summer with the Mystic Schooners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League. He was named the Top Pro Prospect and Rick Ligi MVP, earned NECBL-First Team honors and was selected to the leagueâ€™s All-Star Game. Bowens set the NECBL record with 53 RBIs during the season and hit a league-high 16 home runs to go along with a .331 average in 39 games played. At the home run derby on All-Star night, Bowens launched 40 home runs, including 24 in the championship round.
â€śI think having a good summer season solidified a bunch of questions some teams had on me,â€ť Bowens said.
He never got the chance to continue that trend. The NCAA canceled spring championships on March 12 and the NEC followed suit by canceling the rest of the spring season a day later. The CCSU baseball teamâ€™s and Bowensâ€™ season was over after just 12 games. He finished his Blue Devils career with a .306 batting average, 13 home runs with 72 runs batted in across 96Â games.
â€śThe whole process leading up to [the draft] was very weird,â€ť Bowens said. â€śWe couldnâ€™t do anything. We couldnâ€™t train in front of coaches and scouts.Â We had some Zoom meetings. But [the pandemic] certainly hurt my situation. There were only five rounds instead of 40. For some, it did convince them to go back to school. Obviously, it was a tough pill to swallow. But going into it, I heard a bunch of different things. I heard some teams were interested in taking me in the fifth round, but I was preparing for free agency. Iâ€™m just happy I got a good opportunity and landed in a good situation.â€ť
As it turns out, the Orioles had shown plenty of interest Bowens leading up to the draft. It helped that someone Bowens is close with provided the organization with some first-hand scouting reports.Â
â€śRyan Fuller is from southeastern Connecticut right near me,â€ť Bowens said. â€śI was hitting with him during the winter break and when he found out the Orioles were interested in me, he reached out to them and I was able to talk to him and a bunch of other coaches about a plan for me to reach my potential.â€ť
Fuller is a former UConn baseball player and was hired as a minor league hitting coach for the Orioles in November, working with the Delmarva Shorebirds, a low Class A team in Maryland.
Now, it will just be a matter of when Bowens will be able to play his first minor league game. Heâ€™s hoping to be able to get to the Oriolesâ€™ spring training complex in Sarasota, Florida to work out with other minor leaguers, but thatâ€™s dependent on the MLB players union and the league working out their labor differences.Â
Until then, heâ€™s continuing to work out.
â€śIâ€™ve been able to get on the field a couple times a week, but it hasn't been the same,â€ť Bowens said. â€śI miss it. Itâ€™s weird being in the middle of June and not being able to play. Iâ€™m ready to get back out and get started again.â€ť
Heâ€™s also ready to show that being from a small school and being from the Northeast wonâ€™t matter once players step between the white lines.
â€śA lot of teams and players are underrated,â€ť Bowens said. â€śIt doesnâ€™t matter to me if Iâ€™m underrated or overrated. It doesnâ€™t matter if youâ€™re a first-round pick or an undrafted player. One you step on the field, itâ€™s about who is going to work the hardest and thatâ€™s what the Orioles are going to get in me. Theyâ€™re going to get someone that is going to give 100 percent every time I step on the field.â€ť