Braves sign Rowland
ALBANY – Brendan Rowland spent most of his college career patrolling right field at the University at Albany's Varsity Field.
One morning across town on the College of Saint Rose's Bob Bellizzi Field, however, made his life-long dream of becoming a professional baseball player come true.
Rowland attended the Atlanta Braves' New York State Free Agent Tryout camp at Saint Rose on June 12 at the urging of Brian DiPiazza, one of the Braves' associate scouts. He was subject to a typical barrage of tryout activities, including a 60-yard dash, defensive workouts and batting practice.
The Braves liked what they saw and Monday morning called Rowland to let him know they wished to sign him as a free agent and assign him to the Gulf Coast League Braves, a rookie league team based in Kissimmee, Fl.
“I was honestly just chasing my dream,” Rowland said of his ordeal at the tryout. “I was hoping I could impress somebody.”
He'll head to the Orlando area Wednesday to begin his assignment.
A three-year starter in the outfield for the Great Danes, Rowland held the team lead in batting average (.330), doubles (11), home runs (7) and RBI (39) at the end of the 2010 season.
As steady as he's been in the outfield, the Braves are looking at him as a catcher, the position in which stared at South Colonie High School.
“I caught through high school and I was recruited as a catcher,” said Rowland. “I only caught a few games my freshman year because I was stuck behind a few seniors, but I worked with a number of good catching coaches over there. Sophomore year, I started playing in the outfield all the time and I stuck there.”
Although he did not spend much time behind the plate in Albany, he did catch last summer for Fayetteville Swampdogs of the Coastal Plain League, a southern cousin to the prestigious Cape Cod League and the New York Collegiate Baseball League.
“They're (the Braves) taking me as a catcher. I'm signing as a catcher,” Rowland said. “If they need me in the outfield, I'm more than ready to help them out there, too. At this level, it's all about finding a spot you can succeed in.”
Rowland, an Albany native, thanked his parents, Mark and Kelly, for their support over the years. Life on the diamond is a family affair for the Rowlands. Brendan had an older brother that played at SUNY-Brockport and has a younger brother currently busy with summer All-Star teams. His younger sister, Casey, pitched the Colonie High softball team to a Section II Class AA title this spring.
“Our family is all competitive with each other,” he said. “Our parents encouraged us to do whatever we wanted and we all just kind of fell into sports.”
Big-leaguers such as Wes Helms and Adam Wainright got their starts with the GCL Braves. Rowland knows the majors are a long way off, but he's glad simply to be taking the first step on his professional journey.
“It was always my dream to play pro ball somewhere, somehow,” he said.
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