On the surface, it might seem as if TT Bowens’ professional career didn’t get off to an ideal start.
After his senior year of college at Central Connecticut State was cut short by the pandemic, he signed with the Orioles as an undrafted free agent after the abbreviated 2020 draft … and promptly sat around that summer before finally resuming play the following year.
More recently, a hamstring injury just before the start of the season delayed his arrival at Double-A to start the season.
Yet a dedication to consistency has meant plenty to the 25-year-old, right-hand hitting first baseman, who has thrived since joining Bowie last month.
“In real life, you have bad days at work, bad days with family or friends or relationships, and I feel like trying to be a level-headed person regardless of the situation is just beneficial no matter what the situation is,” Bowens said.
That attitude of reliability has served Bowens well as he’s moved up in the Orioles’ organization the last three years. He split 2021 between Delmarva and Aberdeen before spending all of last season in Aberdeen. He was a fixture on a team that reached the South Atlantic League’s championship series, hitting .248 with seven homers and 45 RBIs.
Those two years were an opportunity to take in one of the biggest adjustments anyone jumping from college to the professional level needs to make. Instead of playing three or four games a week, there is barely any time off for a breather before a new series begins.
“We have our one day, but it’s six days in a row where you have to figure it out going good, bad or indifferent and you have to go out there and play,” Bowens said. “In college, there’s so much time to prepare yourself for the three-game weekend and your body is always fresh and you always feel like you’re ready to go. Here, you have to learn how to play when you’re not 100 percent.”
Of course, there are times a player can’t, as Bowens was reminded when he was hurt during the last week of spring training. The upside was spending a few extra weeks at the Orioles’ minor-league facility in Florida, where he rehabbed and got extra work in with the franchise’s complex league players.
After a week back in Aberdeen, Bowens debuted at Bowie on May 16th. In 20 games with the Baysox, he’s hitting .284 with three homers and six RBIs.
The thing that’s stood out most of his offense is an uptick in power. Bowens slugged .392 in 106 games at Aberdeen last year. That total has shot up to .522 at Bowie, all the more impressive since it is one rung closer to the majors.
While a welcome development, it’s also not a surprising one considering what Bowens aimed to work on going into both last season and this one.
“My first year, I hit for a lot of power, but I also didn’t have a high on-base percentage and I was striking out more than I would prefer, not really a consistent hitter,” Bowens said. “That’s what I worked on last year, sacrificing power to be more consistent. After what I worked on last year, this year’s about mixing both of them together and be a consistent guy and still supply the power.”
The early success at Bowie is only added incentive for Bowens, who grew up near Uncasville, Connecticut — a town perhaps best known for being home to the Mohegan Sun casino — and attended college an hour or so away in New Britain.
Central Connecticut State has only produced three major-leaguers: Catcher Skip Jutze (1972-77), pitcher Evan Scribner (2011-17) and, most famously, reliever Ricky Bottalico (1994-05), who made an All-Star appearance with the Phillies in 1996.
Toss in his undrafted status, and the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Bowens appreciates the effort it has taken to reach this point.
“Not many people from my school and where I come from make it to this level, so that always gives me motivation,” Bowens said. “I’m always just pushing to show that matter where you come from, you can still reach heights that you want to reach if you truly dedicate yourself.”
Talent and effort factor into that. But so does an everyday-ness that continues to aid Bowens.
“I can’t control, unfortunately, if I get hurt or maybe I don’t get hits that day or anything involving those scenarios,” Bowens said. “But what I can control is trying to be the same player and person every single day no matter what happened the previous day, the previous week, how I’m doing and how I’m performing, just being the same person every day.”