Back in 2009, minor league baseball fans were treated to one of the most impressive streaks in recent memory when Mariners prospect Jamie McOwen hit safely in 45 straight games for the High Desert Mavericks, Seattle’s Class A Advanced affiliate in the California League.
During the streak, which spanned nearly two full months (from May 10 to July 8), McOwen hit .398 with fourteen extra base hits, 34 RBI, and 28 runs scored as his batting average climbed 85 points, from .270 to .355. He dipped back down a bit over the next two months, but by season’s end he was still third on the team with a .340 batting average, fourth with 82 RBI, and fifth with 79 runs scored.
The following year should have been McOwen’s big opportunity, his chance to show that he had figured things out in his second tour of the California League and was ready to take his talents to the Double-A Southern League, the level that generally separates the men from the boys. His season ended before it began, however, when he separated his left (non-throwing) shoulder in an exhibition game on April 2.
The injury kept him out of action for the entire 2010 season and essentially slammed shut the window that had been opened briefly by his stellar 2009 campaign. McOwen started 2011 with Double-A Jackson, hitting .261 with four homeruns and 26 RBI in 72 games before being sent back down to High Desert to finish out the season.
McOwen hit .291 with six homeruns for the Mavericks over the final month of the 2011 season and had some success in the Australian Baseball League, but when you’re creeping up on your 26th birthday, short a full season of development, and having a hard time getting out of High-A, it’s usually only a matter of time. And recently, McOwen’s time (at least with the Mariners), ran out.
Baseball America’s weekly transaction report was posted yesterday. It’s always kind of a weird thing to look at, when you think about it: to you, me, and everyone who reads it, they’re just names on a page. Maybe someone we remember is there, like Jamie McOwen or Delwyn Young, but it’s mostly just a bunch of guys who played a few years, lived the dream, and are now moving on, either to another organization or to Life After Baseball.
To the players who appear there, however, the ones who were released by their organizations, it has to be a strange feeling. Remember that scene in “The Goonies”, where the kids find the wishing well and start loading their pockets with coins before Sean Astin reminds them that each of those coins “are somebody else’s wishes. They’re somebody else’s dreams”? That’s kind of how I feel looking at those transaction reports. To me, they’re just words on a computer screen, coins in a wishing well; to the guys who own those names, however, their presence on that list quite possibly represents the end of a dream.
McOwen was actually released several days ago, on March 25, so there’s a chance he already knows his next step. Some Google searching didn’t turn up any news of a new signing, either affiliated or independent, so he may have decided that four seasons of minor league baseball and some great memories were enough. Or maybe he’s still trying to figure things out, see if there’s any interest out there as spring training ends and the real games begin. I honestly don’t know, but I hope we find out.
In the meantime, if this is the end of the line for McOwen, I just have to say thanks for the memories. It was a simpler time writing this blog in 2009 – we were very much in the “see story, write story” phase of our online careers at that point – and that hitting streak was just what we always loved to see: a guy who defied the odds and was, for two months, able to reach out and touch greatness. I sometimes forget to look for those stories these days.