Bowen was a switch hitter and threw right-handed. During his MLB career, he was known for his great fielding abilities. We spoke about his career, baseball free agency, his new company, a possible comeback, and a lot more.
Steven Merriam: Who had the biggest impact in your baseball career?
Rob Bowen: First and foremost my parents, because obviously if they did not take me and cart me around the country when I was a kid I know I wouldn't have gotten half the exposure as I would have. So obviously they were a huge help in getting my career to where it was.
And then obviously the coaches I had growing up through high school and coming up through the minor leagues. I had some great guys who helped me learn some of the things that I think has obviously impacted my career going up through the ranks and learning at an early age, some of the stuff I learned really helped me when I broke into the big leagues as a 22-year-old.
SM: Who were your favorite players growing up?
RB: I followed Chipper Jones when I was a kid, I followed him up, I was a Braves fan as a kid. We lived in Indiana when I went to high school there and I never had a spring break so I always went down. Me and my dad went down to Atlanta Braves to catch a game, and then had to come back because I was always playing baseball during the spring and everything. We never had much time, so I followed him, obviously he was a switch hitter, and Javy Lopez as a catcher, too, obviously for me.
SM: In your baseball career, what was your favorite moment?
RB: There’s a couple. Obviously my first homerun was a big thrill for me and then one of my bigger ones was getting the chance to play in the play-offs with San Diego and winning that game. I mean play-off baseball, there’s nothing like it.
SM: On which of your four MLB teams did you have your best experience?
RB: I would say they're all great because they're all in the big leagues. Each one presented something different and great at the same time going through, especially organization wise with some of the coaches that were there.
I enjoyed San Diego a lot just with the coaching staff and players, the camaraderie that we had going through there, Chicago was a blast, because you're playing in that huge market, every game has the feel of a play-off game. Obviously Minnesota was terrific because they do the right game plan with a small market team, they go out, they promote within, groom some great players and are constantly in the play-off hunt every year. And then Oakland had the same philosophy where they didn’t have that big budget and signed some guys, so it was cool learning all sorts of different techniques from organizations and I think all of the experience kind of blossomed.
SM: As a member of the Padres in 2006, you played behind Mike Piazza, who is a future Hall of Famer at the same position as you. What was that like?
RB: That was an absolute pleasure to be around Mike, learn from Mike obviously, because he is going to be a no-doubt, first-ballot Hall of Famer. He’ll go down as one of the greatest catchers of all time and just the chance to be around him, to learn his wisdom and insight from some of the guys that he’s caught and from some of the other people that he’s played with, was just an absolute dream come true for a catcher. For a young catcher coming up just all the ideas and everything, it was a privilege to play with him.
SM: While playing in the MLB you had a very good fielding percentage. What led you to being such a good fielding catcher?
RB: I always took pride in my defensive ability, going through I think I was always known as a defensive catcher. I prided myself on making sure that the pitchers enjoyed throwing to me. I mean, sure I took care of them going throughout the innings and obviously the defense. That’s a number one priority for a catcher to have his defense and obviously me being a backup that way—that was what kept me around cause obviously I didn’t have a lot of at-bats to really get some offensive numbers, but I had to make sure my defense was always on top.
SM: Since retiring you have started your own company. What made you want to do this?
RB: I was going into law enforcement and I wanted to start a second job where I could stay close to baseball, and travel off and on. I’m talking to guys with experiences and we've created this company that's built on what players have gone through or experienced or what maybe helped them out just a little bit more, so it truly is a players’ company. When we go through these programs and develop these ideas for guys, I think it can make a big impact on a players’ life to where we compliment the player, the agency, the marketing company as just another helping hand for an athlete.
SM: How happy were you to see a fellow catcher in Joe Mauer be named AL MVP?
RB: I couldn’t be happier for Joe. I’ve known Joe for a long time, we're still really good friends, we still talk every couple of months and he’s going to go down as one of the greatest catchers of all-time. In my mind, he’s already pretty close up there in just his very, very young career. Just to be able to catch 130 games and to be the MVP and always be up at the top in hitting, it just shows the commitment that he has, the passion that he has for the game and his abilities to stay up at that level in such a demanding position. It’s a rare thing to see with that sort of combination.
SM: Which player in the MLB today do you believe plays most similarly to the way you do?
RB: Well obviously, my thing was that I was big on defense and trying to help pitchers go through the game, so I’d kind of turn that question around, the catchers today that I would see that through my kind of abilities would be someone like a Yadier Molina. You know the pitchers command such respect and they love throwing to him and he controls the game great—that’s kind of how I wanted to take my career, my similarities was to a catcher like that. The guys who really make an impact behind the plate.
SM: Speaking of Yadier, his brother Bengie is a free agent this offseason. Do you think Bengie is the best free agent catcher?
RB: I would definitely agree that Bengie is one of the top guys out there. His defensive ability and his hitting combination make him a very, very big free agent catcher that’s out there cause obviously it’s a rare breed to be able to hit and catch at that level.
SM: I’ve heard your trying to become a reserve police officer. How do you have the time to do this and run your own company?
RB: My biggest thing is once my company kind of gets off the ground and kind of gets some wheels by itself. We start grabbing a couple guys and have more and more employees working for us. Then I’m going to go in the police academy and go through the course, get certification and become a reserve officer to where all I have to do is work 20 hours a month through the police agency. Then I’ll have time to do this and also do law enforcement, because I have a huge passion for law enforcement.
SM: Last question is kind of tough. Could you ever see yourself make an MLB comeback?
RB: I can always see myself making a comeback if there was the right opportunity and they gave me the chance to get back on a major league roster. I would definitely look at it.
Thanks very much to Rob for doing this interview.
Visit Rob’s company’s website at http://www.opulentproservices.com/ .
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