By Bill Sorrell
Contributing writer, B&R
MEMPHIS — When pro scouts began showing up at University of Memphis baseball games this spring, Jonathan Bowlan’s teammates started calling him “draft guy.” He would answer, “We’ll see.”
On the first day of the Major League Baseball Draft June 4, Bowlan, a right-handed pitcher, was drafted in the second round and No. 58 overall by the Kansas City Royals, the highest Memphis player drafted since 1981.
“It was surreal and a dream come true. It is a blessing, a tremendous achievement. I couldn’t have done it without the teammates and the tremendous support from my family, friends, and coaches,” said Bowlan, a member of Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova. “All the glory goes to God because I wouldn’t be here without Him blessing me in many different ways.”
After attending a mini-camp in Arizona, Bowlan was assigned to Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League.
At Memphis, Bowlan elevated secondary pitches going from a curveball to slider and improving his changeup.
“He definitely has the talent and tools to make it to the major leagues,” said Memphis head baseball coach Dale Schoenrock.
Bowlan will make an impact not only with pitches that included a fastball that topped 96 mph but by his work ethic and how he treats people said Schoenrock.
“Jonathan is a follower of Christ. His faith is an important part of making him who he is on and off the field. He will impact people for Christ by how he lives his life. Very seldom does someone with so much God-given talent remain so humble and appreciative for all he is given.”
Memphis left-handed pitcher and right fielder Colton Neel said, “It is always fun to see a guy like Jon go in the draft because of his humility. I’ve said it multiple times that the Royals are getting a great player but a better person.”
Bowlan’s biggest fan is his older sister Emily Bowlan, who was born deaf and with Down’s Syndrome.
“She keeps me motivated to make it to the highest level,” said Bowlan, 21.
Emily attended each home game and no matter the outcome she was smiling and there to hug him.
“She has done a lot more for me. I have learned it doesn’t matter what kind of setback, you have to just keep going,” said Bowlan.
“Jonathan has seen God working in Emily’s life,” Schoenrock said, “To see how much love she has for him, you know that he has been a tremendous brother to her. He comes from a Christian home. His mom and dad are outstanding parents to him. I think it’s a very well-grounded family. They understand what is important and they have instilled that into Jonathan. He is such a kind, giving and caring person.”
Mark Bowlan, Jonathan’s father, pitched the only perfect game in Memphis history on May 3, 1987. He threw 84 pitches in a 13-0 victory over Louisville.
Joining his father in the record books, Jonathan struck out 18 South Florida batters on April 28, the most in school history and the most in an NCAA Division 1 game this season. It was also an American Athletic Conference strikeout record.
Jonathan said it meant a lot to be part of school history with his father. He finished with 104 season strikeouts and 3.71 ERA.
His mother Connie Bowlan and Mark were influential in leading him to Christ when he was young.
“Jesus means the world. He is the one that sent me here (Memphis) and has made me and made this life for me. You need to thank Him every day for what He gave you. You trust His process that He has for your life,” said Jonathan.
During baseball chapels, he was locked in, listening “to what the Lord had to say and what it really means to be the Lord’s. I believe in the Lord’s Word. I believe in everything He has said for me and what He has taught me.”
Schoenrock, a member of First Baptist Church in Collierville, led road chapels.
“I share a lot with our team about my faith. We have a strong-faith based mission with this team. We have Bible studies. We have kids who share with other kids who lead kids to the Lord.”
Bowlan tried to make his faith evident to teammates.
“They know I respect everybody in every way and that I am not stressed because I know the Lord has my back. That is how I move through tough situations. He is going to be by your side.”
Said Neel, “You know that the Lord’s light shines through him. That is how I would describe Jon’s faith. He loves God and is a believer and I have seen that most through day-to-day interaction with him.”