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James McOwen: The Most Interesting Man in the ALPB

By Javik Blake, 08/03/21, 4:45PM EDT

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McOwen has seen the world from the diamond

    High Point Rockers leftfielder James McOwen isn’t just a baseball player. He’s a world traveler, jiu-jitsu competitor, and as of last month, the proud owner of a brand-new motorcycle. If there was ever a Mr. Dos Equis Man of the Atlantic League, it might just be the thirty-five-year-old McOwen.
    The final year of McOwen’s baseball career was supposed to be 2018. The former sixth round pick of the Seattle Mariners had played 102 games for the Capitales de Quebec, driving in 50 runs and hitting 10 homers. 
    “I had a good time in Quebec,” said McOwen, standing next to the Rockers dugout after batting practice one afternoon. “I was totally done with baseball and went back to Fort Lauderdale and set up real estate.”
    Like most independent baseball players, the six-foot tall outfielder had bounced around multiple leagues. But unlike most Atlantic League players, McOwen went international.
    “When I figured out I wasn’t going to make it to that top level,” McOwen said. “I wanted to get the most out of the game as I could.”
    McOwen spent the 2012 season between the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League and the Grand Prairie AirHogs of the American Association, and then moved to Germany for the next four years, playing for the Heidenheim Heideköpfe while serving as a coach of their 18U team.
    “I did find a love for the game in Germany,” McOwen said. “You don’t have to be an amazing player to still love the game and have a good time. You see it out [in Germany]. They’re not the best players, but they still love the game.”
    After baseball, however, McOwen continued on the path of the unexpected, and enrolled in jiu-jitsu competitions around Florida.
    “You have to pay attention to your body if you want to succeed in jiu-jitsu,” McOwen explained. “There’s a lot of focus on breathing too, since it’s a sport that has moments of high cardio, and then no action.”
    The biggest difference, however, was where you end up.
    “You’re on your feet with baseball. You roll around a lot with jiu-jitsu,” said McOwen.
    The spark to get back into baseball for McOwen came this past May with the West Virginia Power, another Atlantic League team. They needed a player for their preseason games. So, enter James McOwen, and enter the motorcycle.
    “I always had that itch to ride and own a motorcycle,” McOwen explained. “If I got released [in West Virginia], then I’ll ride it back to Florida and tick that box off my bucket list of doing a cross-country road trip on a motorcycle.”
    McOwen, however, didn’t get released, and has instead cemented himself into left field and batting second in the Rockers order. The thirty-five-year-old is the oldest regular in the lineup, but that hasn’t stopped him from putting up a team-leading nine doubles and one triple. He has an eight-game hitting streak to his credit this year and has played perfect defense, handling 44 chances without an error.
    So, if you happen to see a motorcycle parked outside Truist Point on a sunny day, there’s a good chance it belongs to the most interesting man in the Atlantic League.