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08/09/06 10:00 AM ET
The kid of the class
Indians' top rookie has plenty to adjust to outside of baseball
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
To get to know him is to find he's just another 23-year-old kid. A kid in a long-distance relationship. A kid looking to buy a dog. A kid with '80s music on his iPod. Oh, and he's also a kid pitching lights-out baseball in the Indians rotation. It is, at times, still hard for Jeremy Sowers to believe he is where he is. Why, the third batter he ever faced in a Major League game was likely future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. That wasn't exactly the most mundane moment he's ever experienced on the mound. "I was thinking, 'I played this guy's video game when I was 10 years old,'" Sowers recalls. "That was just weird." But Sowers doesn't identify himself solely as a rookie pitcher. Baseball, you see, is what he does, not who he is. So who is he? Well, he's Ashley Duffy's fiancée, for one. The two met at Vanderbilt when Sowers was a sophomore and Duffy was a freshman. He played baseball, of course, and she played soccer. And though they shared a college, their respective schedules and separate hometowns (he lives in Louisville, Ky.; she's from Ashburn, Va.) dictated a lot of time apart. "We're used to the whole idea of phone conversing, which I'm terrible at," Sowers says. "I'm just not like that. She'll talk about what she did during the day in every detail. And I'm like, 'What did I do today? I woke up, ate breakfast and came to the ballpark.' I'm more concise." Yes, his phone conversations are like his pitching performances -- quick and to the point. A bit more complicated are the wedding plans. The two intend to get married on the Outer Banks at the end of 2007, though that's about the only part of the plan in which Sowers is getting his say. "There's all sorts of stuff involved," he says. "I'm definitely a yes man when it comes to that. Her mom is probably going to do most of the work. I'm probably going to be alleviating a lot of stress by not getting involved. I'm not very particular. I can't close my eyes and visualize exactly what I want to see, but there are certain things that aren't hard to agree on." One of those things, sadly, is not the music. Sowers, you see, is an '80s music junkie. He's probably one of few people in their early twenties who lists Journey as a favorite band. He'd like to incorporate his obsession into his wedding reception. That might be a tough sell. "I'm trying to push for some sort of '80s cover band," he says. "I just don't want to hear, like, pop-type stuff or 'The Chicken Dance' or 'The Electric Slide.' But I'll probably end up losing that battle." For now, the couple is battling the difficulties of distance. Duffy's been staying on the Outer Banks with her parents this summer, but she has plans to move to Cleveland to be with Jeremy sometime soon. The problem, however, is finding work for Duffy, who has a communications and political science degree, in the Cleveland area. "Right now, it's more important for us to be together than for her to follow her career elsewhere," Sowers says. "Fortunately, we're in a [financial] position where she's able to look around and not feel obligated to find something right away. But at the same time, you don't want to throw away a Vanderbilt education. She's worked very hard to try to find something."
Sowers' adjustment to the big-league lifestyle has been an adjustment for Duffy, as well. Because as nice it is to see a loved one reach his dream of making it to the Majors, it leads to its share of logistical issues.
"She's been very helpful to me," Sowers says. "It can be difficult waiting around the hotel or apartment while I go play baseball. It's demanding. People don't realize how much time we spend at the field. It's not showing up at the park at 6:45 p.m. for a 7 o'clock game. We work more than 40 hours a week. But we make the most of the offseason."
Sowers is hoping his offseason includes the purchase of a pet. He and Duffy want to get a Puggle (a crossbreed of a Pug and Beagle) for his pad.
"I want a dog with a personality," he says. "I don't want a dog that I feel like I could crush in my bare hands or a dog that is a prissy little toy dog. I don't like a fragile dog, but I don't want a huge Great Dane, either."
To illustrate the dog he'd like to get, Sowers pulls out his Apple MacBook and does an Internet search for Puggles.
"I've never had a Mac before," he says, "so sorry if I screw this up."
But Sowers has long been fairly computer-savvy. While attending Ballard High School in Louisville, he got hooked on music downloads. That's where his '80s passion in music peaked.
"In high school, downloading was becoming easier," he says. "You were able to access songs without having to buy albums. You could expose yourself to a lot more music. I would remember a lot of songs from when my mom would drive me to school in the late 80s and early 90s. I would think, 'Yeah I really like this music.'"
Sowers doesn't, however, want to be painted strictly as an "I Love the '80s"-type. For his tastes have a broad range.
"It's more [difficult] finding a genre I don't like," he says. "I don't like pop country and overproduced rap. I listen to some country songs, and I can't believe they can sing the lyrics without laughing. Or the pop songs with the Daniel Powter 'Had a Bad Day' formula, where they get a catchy riff, and the guy is overly feminine."
If Sowers had his druthers, he'd be coming up with some riffs of his own. He'd love to be a musician, but he knows his own limitations.
"I had a guitar, but I'm tone deaf," he says. "And I can't sing. I have no talent that way. It's just a lost cause."
OK, so the kid isn't musically inclined. Still, he's not complaining.
"At least I can play baseball," Sowers says. "I wouldn't trade what I have going for me right now for anything."
: : : This Edition: April 04, 2007 : : :
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.