Chris Rowley makes major league debut with Blue Jays after military service
Army's Chris Rowley pitches during an NCAA college baseball tournament regional game in Charlottesville, Va., Friday, May 31, 2013. Virginia defeated Army 2-1. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Dhiren Mahiban , The Canadian Press
Published Friday, August 11, 2017 8:17PM EDT
TORONTO -- At just 26-years-old, Chris Rowley has already led a full life. And that's even before he makes his major league debut for the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Saturday.
Rowley is starting for a Toronto rotation that has been plagued by injuries, an unlikely opportunity after he was undrafted out of West Point, He joined the Blue Jays Gulf Coast League affiliate for the 2013 season but after just nine games, where he went 4-0 with a 1.10 earned-run average, Rowley had to begin his five-year active duty obligation to the United States Army.
While in the military, Rowley was stationed in Fort Sill, Okla., and then moved to Fort Stewart, Ga., where he was deployed from to Bulgaria as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
"It was definitely a culture shock," said Rowley. "Anytime you go anywhere else in the world, especially as part of an armed forces group, you're going to experience different cultures and it was a culture shock and it was something we really saw the need for and believed in. I enjoyed my time there; it was a great experience for me."
Last year, Rowley who majored in American legal studies at West Point, applied for his release from active duty -- a process that took six months to complete.
"I had to brief my battalion and my brigade commander on the situation, which they already knew about because that was part of my plan ever since I signed," Rowley said. "I was released from active duty and now I'm in what's called the individual ready reserve so I'm still technically in the United States Army, I'm just in what's called the individual ready reserve."
After two years away from the game, Rowley spent the entire 2016 season with the Dunedin Blue Jays posting a 10-3 record to go along with a 3.49 ERA in a career-high 123? 2?3 innings of work.
The six-foot-two, 195-pound right-hander started the 2017 season out of the bullpen with double-A New Hampshire and was promoted to triple-A Buffalo in June.
In 10 games with Buffalo, Rowley went 3-4 with a 2.82 ERA over 54 1/3 innings prior to getting the recall on Thursday.
"I will be the first West Point graduate to play in the major leagues," said Rowley. "I don't think it's something I really understand the magnitude of. I'm not sure I ever will. It's something I'm trying to digest right now."
Rowley has a slider, cutter and change-up in his repertoire while designing his game after childhood idol Greg Maddux.
He may not be able to grasp the magnitude of what he's accomplished thus far, but understands full well with the holes in the Blue Jays rotation, a successful outing Saturday could lead to more than just a spot start.
"This is what we play for, you don't sign up to play pro baseball to not make it," said Rowley while sporting the initials 'MJH' on his hat, a tribute to his best friend Matthew Jack Hendricks who passed away in February. "I try to live in that moment and it's my job to compete and see where the cards fall."