He is the No. 1-ranked baseball player in Massachusetts, has a scholarship to one of the nation’s most select universities, and an uncle, Derek Dana, whom he may match as a professional player in the not too distance future.
Yet Ben Bowden, a 6-feet-4-inch senior lefthander whose every start this spring for Lynn English will be watched closely, still had some basketball in heart.
It took an eleventh hour decision but Ben Bowden is now a captain and starting center for the Lynn English basketball team.
“I told everyone I wasn’t going to play basketball,” said Bowden. “I made my decision ten minutes to a half hour before the tryouts. I came by the coach’s office just to say hello to Coach [Mike] Carr and wish him luck and some of the guys came in and were joking with me about not playing.”
Bowden got into his car, drove home, talked to his father [Larry] and his girlfriend, “and my dad said, ‘why don’t you play?”
Bowden thought about it and returned to the school to try out for the team. Many college scholarship athletes give up playing other sports in high school. Scoonie Penn [Salem High, BC, Ohio State, Atlanta Hawks draft pick] gave up football, for example, to concentrate on basketball while pitcher Mike Spinelli [Revere High, University of Miami, Boston Red Sox draft pick] gave up playing hockey in his senior year.
Bowden is heading to Vanderbilt University, a college with a superb baseball program that plays in the Southeastern Conference.
“The [Vanderbilt] coach has been supportive of my decision to play basketball,” said Bowden. “He came up here to visit his parents in New Hampshire and we had lunch. He told me right from the beginning that he was supportive and he likes multi-sport athletes so he was cool with it.”
Mike Carr was happy to see Ben Bowden on the court from Day 1 of the preseason.
“Ben just decided that he didn’t want to miss out on every part of being a senior and it’s just such a great asset to us because he’s a good basketball player but he’s a much better kid,” said Carr. “He’s a leader, fantastic in terms of team spirit, and he helps us – he gives us size, some toughness, and interior strength.”
Carr said he appointed Bowden a captain on the first day of practice.
“Ben was a leader last year and I knew the kind of kid he was,” said Carr. “We had already named three other captains but the second he came on board, I knew I was going to have four captains. Ben gives us senior leadership. I’m thrilled that he’s on our team. ”
Bowden, a former Lynn Little League home run derby champion out of the East Lynn organization, has been a basketball player for a long time. He played for the Hood Elementary School team, the St. Pius middle school team, and St. Pius CYO team.
He played freshman and junior varsity basketball his first two years at English and jumped to the varsity as a junior. He has made a steady contribution to the Bulldogs, using his 6-4 frame well in the paint and under the boards.
Bowden said the team is starting to jell after a tough loss to Salem in overtime. “We’re picking it on defense and getting better with each game. I think we’re very strong. I think we’ll go as far as our guards, Freddie Hogan, Stevie Collins, and Eric Rosario, will take us. We have a really good freshman in Anthony Silfa and a lot of good role players.”
Bowden had a very memorable summer, competing in the Area Code Games in California and other major showcases. He ended his season topping out at 92 miles per hour for his fastball. Major League Baseball teams have been in contact with him and will be monitoring his season for the Bulldogs with the amateur draft set for June.
“It’s a blessing to be ranked the No. 1 player – I put in a lot of hard work to get there,” said Bowden. “But there’s still a lot more than needs to be done.”
The most enticing match-up this spring will be when English plays Classical and Bowden pitches against Classical’s Kyle Devin, the third-ranked player in Massachusetts.
“I like facing Kyle because he’s always going to give me a battle when he’s in the batter’s box,” said Bowden. “If I make a bad pitch to him, he’s going to hit it a long way. I can’t wait to face him.”
Bowden said he’s also pitched to Devin in the catcher’s box.
“The coolest part was that I got to throw to Kyle at Yankee Stadium,” said Bowden. “We had a crazy summer traveling with the Boston Astros and going to California for the Area Code Games.”
Jim Belliveau, president of Greater Lynn Babe Ruth, is among those who have watched Bowden’s development as a baseball player and progression in to a confident young man who always helped out others on the field.
“He would teach other players how to straddle first base, hold the glove, and play the position and I thought that was pretty cool for a 14-year-old to teach someone that,” said Belliveau. “He’s a perfect gentleman. His parents should be very proud. He’s such a good kid. He’s a great baseball player but I’m glad he’s playing basketball because he’s a pretty good basketball player, too.”