Diamondbacks' Young Trio Growing Together In South Bend
SOUTH BEND, IND.—There was a time when potential was about all Bobby Borchering, Matt Davidson and Chris Owings had in common.
They had the kind of potential where the sky is the limit, putting up eye-popping numbers as talented high school players as they chased their dreams of stardom.
All three had an opportunity to play college baseball, but the lure of jumping into the pro ranks was too tempting to resist. Now the three 2009 draftees are cornerstones of the Diamondbacks' rebuilding farm system, and their paths have come together with the Midwest League's South Bend Silver Hawks.
Borchering, a star at Bishop Verot High in Fort Myers, Fla., and a Florida recruit, was taken 16th overall by the Diamondbacks in the first round of the 2009 draft.
On the same June day, more than 2,500 miles away in California, Davidson, a standout at Yucaipa (Calif.) High with a scholarship offer to Southern California, was drafted 35th overall in the supplemental first round by Arizona.
Six picks later, the Diamondbacks scooped up Owings, who was set to go to South Carolina, the team he dreamed of playing for as a child. He was a two-time 2A state player of the year at Gilbert High in Leesville, S.C.
A year has passed since their draft day. On a July afternoon in South Bend, with the Silver Hawks a few hours away from a game against Lansing, the trio took time to reflect on the similar experiences they've shared.
"All of us are great players, and we always try to do our best," Owings said. "We share advice and hang out. It's strange that we ended up on the same team but it's fun going through this experience with them."
Davidson echoed those thoughts.
"It's a blessing to have Bobby and Chris on the same team," Davidson said. "We all had high profiles in high school and we can relate to each other. We talk a lot and help each other out. We hope we can one day make the majors together."
Getting Up To Speed
They appear to be on the right path considering that through early July, Davidson, Borchering and Owings were among the top three on the team in several statistical categories.
Davidson, who splits time with Borchering at third base and DH, was the leader in home runs (10), RBIs (49), on-base (.374) and slugging (.485). The team's primary cleanup hitter, he was hitting .289 through 270 at-bats.
Owings, the shortstop, led the team in average, hitting .298 in 255 at-bats, and his slugging percentage was second at .447. He'd also chipped in five homers and 28 RBIs out of the two-hole in the lineup.
Hitting between Owings and Davidson, Borchering had belted eight home runs and racked up 39 RBIs, good enough for second in both categories. The third baseman's line stood at .248/.325/.387 through 282 at-bats.
"We are working hard and always striving to get better," Borchering said. "I feel like we've made a lot of strides and we've learned a lot from playing with each other."
Borchering played for Rookie-level Missoula of the Pioneer League after signing in 2009 and hit .241/.290/.425 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 87 at-bats, a glimpse of the switch-hitter's potential. He was coming off a high school season in which he hit .494, scored 33 runs and tallied 37 RBIs at Bishop Verot.
But he chose to pass on an offer with the Gators, and while there have been disappointments this season, Borchering has kept his head up.
"You have to be able to deal with failures to succeed," Borchering said. "You can't get too up or too down. You have to take everything in stride."
Davidson pitched and played third base in high school and excelled at both. As a senior, he batted .553 and drove in 45 runs while smashing 11 home runs. He also worked 30 relief innings on the mound and fashioned a 1.60 ERA. He allowed 11 runs on 19 hits and struck out 40 en route to a 5-0 record.
Davidson had an opportunity to put his talent on display at several showcase events in California, including the 2008 AFLAC All-American Game at Dodger Stadium where he won the home run derby.
"I loved pitching, but I also developed a strong love for hitting," Davidson said. "I knew I would have a shot at the pros if I could become a great hitter."
Davidson, who played with Yakima in the short-season Northwest League in 2009, hitting .241 and driving in 28 runs, has never let success go to his head.
Back home, he was involved in the Best Buddies Program, which is dedicated to enhancing the lives of children with intellectual disabilities. He also offered free hitting and pitching lessons to children in his community.
"I thank God that I've been put in a position to help others," Davidson said. "I enjoy making a difference. It's a good feeling to be able to give back to others because I've been given so much."
Owings hit .400 in high school and stole 22 bases. After playing with Borchering in Missoula, hitting .306 and tallying 10 RBIs in 108 at-bats, he has continued to make progress in the MWL.
"I'm always working to improve every aspect of my game," Owings said. "One thing that has helped is that I've learned to be mentally tough. You can't get frustrated when things don't go your way. You have to work through it and keep going forward."
Mark Haley has managed the Silver Hawks since 2005, leading them to an MWL championship that year, and has seen a lot of talented players come through the league. He said Borchering, Davidson and Owings are among them.
"They have made tremendous progress," Haley said. "They have learned what works and what doesn't at this level, and it's great to see players from this generation act so humble and show a willingness to learn the game."
That willingness to learn could prove beneficial down the road as Borchering, Davidson and Owings continue their climb to the top.
"I love the whole experience," Borchering said. "It's a lot of fun working toward the goal of playing in the majors. I feel like it's not out of reach to make the dream come true."
Brian Lester is a freelance writer based in Findlay, Ohio