It was May 23rd, 2006. The Baltimore Orioles were in Seattle, just a two-hour drive south from Adam Loewen’s hometown of Surrey, British Columbia. Loewen, a first-round draft pick by the Orioles in 2002, was finally standing on a Major League mound, in a Major League game. At the plate: Richie Sexson, the two-time all star who had hit 39 home runs just a season before.
Sexson fouled off the first pitch, took two balls, swung and missed, and then heard home plate umpire Jerry Layne bellow out something loud and vaguely sounding like “strike three!”. Twenty-two year old Adam Loewen was a major leaguer.
The rest of the outing did not go quite as smoothly. Loewen walked Carl Everett, then hit Adrian Beltre with a pitch. A Kenji Johjina RBI single ended Loewen’s night.
It was September 7th, 2012. Six and a half years after Adam Loewen’s pitching debut. He was further from Surrey now, but closer to home: he dug his toe into the Canadian soil of the left-handed batters box at the Rogers Centre. It was not Loewen’s first Major-League at bat–he had grounded out twice against Tom Glavine when the Orioles played the Mets in interleague play in 2006–but this was different: he was now a right-fielder, a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.
“I had 2 stress fractures in my elbow and the doctor said I wouldn’t pitch again, so my options were to stop playing or try something new.”
With Brett Lawrie on first after a single, Loewen’s first at-bat as a position player went like this: called strike, called strike, ball, fly out to left field.
Loewen would later reach base for the first time: the karma of Beltre guided a Franklin Morales fastball into Loewen’s body for a hit-by-pitch in the sixth inning. In the eighth, Daniel Bard made himself part of Loewen’s story by allowing a single to right field.
It was August 10th, 2015. Aaron Harang of the Philadelphia Phillies handed the ball to interim manager Pete Mackanin, who waited for Adam Loewen to trot in from the bullpen in Phoenix. Jake Lamb stood in the batter’s circle taking warmup swings while Loewen got ready. Both men stepped in, and Loewen threw ball one, making history. While there had been a number of players to convert from pitcher to position player or vice verse, Loewen was now the first player in MLB history to make the transition from pitcher to position player and back. Swinging Strike, swinging strike, swinging strike.
The following year, Loewen found himself a member of the Diamondbacks, again splitting time between the major and minor leagues.
And now, the thirty-two-year-old is in camp with the Texas Rangers, competing for a spot that really only became vacant because another former Phillies left-hander (Jake Diekman) will miss the first half of the season.
His first two game outings have yielded little to suggest that Loewen will win the spot. 1⅓ innings, 5 runs, 4 walks, 0 strikeouts. But baseball is a game of adversity, and how one responds to it. Loewen has already proven himself capable of rising to meet some unique challenges. Perhaps one more is not out of the question.