Bowden taking his game to the minors

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Vidalia — After going undrafted in the 2008 Major League Baseball first-year players draft, Vidalia native Barry Bowden has found a home in professional baseball, signing a rookie free-agent contract with the Kansas City Royals Monday.

According to Vidalia High baseball coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir, Bowden will report to the Burlington Royals Class A league baseball team of the Appalachian League later this week.

To Hoffpauir, it came as a surprise that a pitcher with Bowden’s résumé would go undrafted.

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“(I was) very surprised, as were a lot of people I’ve talked to in the baseball profession,” Hoffpauir said. “Barry had a couple of injuries to overcome, but he’s proven he’s been able to overcome those.

“It had to be something, because the numbers were there.”

This season the former Vidalia Viking racked up stats and accolades while at Southern Miss.

As a senior, Bowden was 8-3 with a 2.12 ERA, recording 78 strikeouts and walking just 22 batters.

Bowden was rewarded for his performance by being named a first team All Conference-USA selection this season and was named C-USA pitcher of the week three times this season and national pitcher of the week twice by two different publications in the same week.

“I’ve had some great players come through Vidalia and Barry is right there at the top,” Hoffpauir said. “We knew we could play with anybody with Barry on the mound.

“You could see it when Barry was a freshman (at Vidalia) and even before, he was a special talent.”

Although Bowden went undrafted, Hoffpauir was sure his former ace would sign with a team.

“I did feel very confident he would get picked up if he was not selected,” Hoffpauir said.

Hoffpauir is no stranger to professional baseball. In 2000 the Oakland Athletics signed his oldest son Josh Hoffpauir as an undrafted free agent.

Josh played five seasons in the minor leagues and is now an assistant coach at Pearl River Community College.

Josh’s younger brother, Jarrett, was drafted in the sixth round of the 2004 draft out of Southern Miss by the St. Louis Cardinals and is currently with the Memphis Redbirds of the Pacific Coast League.

Speaking from experience, the eldest Hoffpauir said the game changes for a player between amateur baseball and professional baseball.

“You’re going away from playing for a school and playing for fun and the community into a business,” Hoffpauir said.

“Professional baseball is such a business,” Hoffpauir continued. “You have to be good and you have to be lucky. I don’t know which one you need most of.”

Aside from the business aspect of the game, Hoffpauir said Bowden will have to adapt to playing every day instead of three or four times a week, like in high school and college.

Hoffpauir said the first year is critical if Bowden wants to one day climb the minor leagues ladder and pitch in the big leagues.

“This year will be important for him. (He needs to) catch some people’s eyes.”

Bowden and his parents could not be reached for comment for this story.