BRADENTON, FLA. — Rich Rowland thought his time at the ballpark was over when he retired from professional baseball in 1997, but life served him a curveball when his son Robby was selected in the third round of the 2010 MLB draft.
Robby Rowland, entering his third year as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, has been ascending through the minor league ranks and has visions of making the leap to the major leagues much like his father did over two decades ago.
The young right-hander has relied heavily on his father for advice throughout his professional career, and appreciates just how fortunate he is to have such a prominent role model in his life.
“He always helps me with my preparation. He has taught me since I was a little kid that having a good work ethic makes a world of difference,” said Robby. “Just the stories he tells me of the major-league locker room, it really drives me to get to the level he was at.”
Rich played the first four seasons of his major-league career as a catcher with the Detroit Tigers in the early 1990s; backstopping the likes of Bill Gullickson and Mike Moore. He was dealt to the Red Sox prior to the start of the 1994 season, before retiring just a few seasons later.
It is no wonder that when a fresh-faced 20-year-old Robby was dealt from Arizona to Pittsburgh prior to the 2012 season, his father was the person he relied on for guidance.
“I remember I only had two seasons under my belt with the Diamondbacks when I heard I got traded,” the righty said. “The first phone call I made after I heard the news was to my pops, and I told him, ‘You better come out here because I want to take a drive.’”
The two decided they would take a trip across the United States from the Diamondbacks spring training facility in Scottsdale, Arizona to the Pirates facility in Bradenton, Florida; a trip that spans well over 3,000 kilometres.
Robby reminisced about some of the lighter moments that he and his father experienced on their three-day drive.
“I remember one stop in particular that must have been at a trucker’s pit just outside Texas,” explained Robby. “My dad insisted I needed to keep my arm loose, so it was late at night and we were throwing long [toss] from probably 300 feet in rocks, sand and gravel.”
Rich has always been there for his son, and Robby has used the success of his father, including multiple championship runs in the minors, as a motivator in his own career.
“Ever since I got into professional baseball all I’ve wanted is a ring,” Robby said. “My dad has one or two rings and I’ve always been jealous of that. It actually really drives me.”
Robby looks to have a bright future with the Pirates organization, and with a little luck he just may get a championship ring. Like father, like son.