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Robby Rowland Joins 'From Phenom To The Farm:' Episode 5 (Part 1)

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Robby Rowland (Photo by Mike Janes/Four Seam)

“From Phenom to the Farm” releases new episodes every other Tuesday featuring players whose experiences vary across the professional baseball spectrum. Players will discuss their personal experiences going from high school graduation to the life of a professional baseball player.

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When you think of the ideal projection right-hander, a pitcher that not only scouts can dream on but also one with the off-field intangibles to hit their ceiling, Robby Rowland would fit the bill.

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Heading into the 2010 draft, Rowland checked a lot of boxes in what scouts were looking for in a potential long-term big leaguer. As far as physical measurables, there wasn’t a whole lot more you could ask for in an amateur arm. A highly-skilled basketball player who was listed at 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, it wasn’t hard to anticipate that Rowland would have much more in the tank to improve on his high school velocity of 87-90.

Off the field, both Rowland’s makeup and bloodlines screamed “future big leaguer.” Even to this day he’s lauded for his work ethic; a trait that he maintains is practically engrained in his DNA. So is big league DNA; his father Rich caught in the big leagues for parts of six seasons with the Tigers and Red Sox, and passed on both MLB genes as well as an understanding of the professional baseball lifestyle to Robby.

Most of all, Rowland had the desire to be a pro. He’d signed to pitch at Oregon but made it clear with the coaching staff that his goal was pro ball post-high school. Rowland and his team made it clear that if he cemented himself as a top-three round talent either via draft slot or later round bonus money that he was headed to the professional ranks.

When the Diamondbacks selected Rowland in the 3rd round (88th overall), there was no holdout or over-slot bonus negotiation (although the D-Backs did agree to also select and sign his brother Richie, then a catcher at Cambellsville University).

“The money is in the big leagues,” recalled Rowland, when asked about his pre-draft experience.

After spending years learning about and visualizing a career in professional baseball, Rowland was ready to get going. Compared to most high school signees, he knew the grind that he was signing up for better than most. However, after signing almost immediately and heading to the Pioneer League, he learned he wasn’t quite ready for everything.

“The one thing that I was a deer in the headlights with was doing my own laundry,” said Rowland when reflecting on his first professional season. “If I didn’t have my brother with me there, I would’ve had to ask a teammate, and that would have been embarrassing.”

Laundry woes aside, Rowland was confident in his game and his preparedness for professional baseball. His father had made his major league debut during his third professional season, and at 18 years old the younger Rowland didn’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be on the same timeline.

Three years later, during the 2013 season with High-A Bradenton, Rowland wasn’t quite knocking on the door to the show. In fact, mentally, he was about as far away as he could be from a big league ready arm. The physicality was still there, as was the work ethic and drive to be successful. He’d spent the last few years experiencing highs and lows on-field and chasing every potential solution he could think of to find his identity and best path to success on the mound.

However the more adjustments he made, the farther away his dream got.

Warming up before a start against the Tampa Yankees, Rowland had an epiphany. And not a good one.

“I remember in that bullpen,” Rowland recalled. “I don’t know where the ball is going.”

Current professional pitcher Robby Rowland is our guest for the next episode of ‘From Phenom to the Farm.’ In Part 1, Robby goes over what it’s like to grow up the son of a big leaguer, spending his first summer after high school in the Pioneer League, and how he went from 3rd rounder to free agent in four years.

Please remember to subscribe to ‘From Phenom to the Farm’ wherever you get your podcasts and leave a rating & review. Tune in for Part 2 with Robby Rowland on Tuesday, April 21st.

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