March 3, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Ryan Stowers used to be like a lot of high school baseball players.
Some players can hit home runs in practice or in a scrimmage, but hitting one in a game is the real deal.
In a way, it validates you as a player and says you have arrived.
If that''s the case, Stowers can feel doubly special.
The West Lowndes High School outfielder hit two home runs and had five RBIs in a 5-3 victory against Ethel last week.
The home runs in the first and second innings were Stowers'' first career home runs in a game.
"That was the question I asked myself, was I really going to hit one in the game like I did in practice?" Stowers said. "I didn''t really know I was going to hit that one. I just tried to get a basehit and it just went."
For his accomplishment, Stowers is The Commercial Dispatch Prep Player of the Week.
That Stowers has two home runs to his credit says a lot about the work he did in the batting cages in the offseason to prepare himself for this season.
With several players still with the West Lowndes boys basketball team at the beginning of the baseball team, coach Todd Stanley told his remaining players that they would have opportunities to earn playing time. He said Stowers, who is hitting in the No. 5 spot in the lineup, is making the most of his chance.
"He didn''t start last year and he has really worked hard on the weights and especially in the batting cages," Stanley said. "He is usually the first one here and you have to run him home. When I get through working on the field after practice, you have to make him go home. He is one of those kids that it makes you feel good to see him do well because he has put the work in."
Stanley said he watched Stowers progress in the batting cage and learn to stay back on curveballs. He said Stowers'' improvement gave him confidence to move Stowers from the lower third of the batting order to a position in the middle of the lineup.
That work paid off in the second at-bat against Ethel. Behind in the count, Stowers did what he had worked on -- he stayed back -- and went with the curveball and hit it out to left-center field.
"I was shocked because I didn''t really think I would hit a curveball out," Stowers said. "I was so happy when I hit that. It made me feel good. I liked the second one because it was a curveball and I have been working hard to stay back on them."
The home run was Stowers'' third this season. He said he hit his first home run in practice earlier this season and felt a huge lift when he hit his first home run in a game.
Stanley shared the excitement with Stowers.
"It was more satisfying for me for him to hit the breaking ball out because he can hit a fastball," Stanley said. "When he was rounding second base (on first home run) me and him were laughing and grinning at each other. I am so happy to see him do well. He is a strong kid. The ball just jumps off his bat."
Stanley said Stowers has a lot of potential to make even more out of his final two years. He said Stowers has been the most consistent hitter for the Panthers (3-2), which doesn''t surprise him considering how hard he has worked in the batting cage.
Stanley said the improvement Stowers had made only can be the beginning if he continues to work on his skills.
"He is raw in some parts of his game, but he can become a good hitter," Stanley said. "He is as strong as about any kid I have had out here. He just needs to work and to stay back, but he has worked on it and keeping his hands inside the ball. He just needs to keep doing what he is doing and he will be fine."
Stowers said he has surprised himself at how well he has started the season. He said he wondered how he would do this season considering his performance last season. The hard work, though, has raised Stowers'''' confidence and has him shooting for even higher goals.
"I can do better, a lot better," Stowers said. "I am planning to get into the cage and to work hard to keep this going and to help the team win more games."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.