Checking in with Chris Owings
Last season, the trio of OF Adam Eaton (.381), INF Ryan Wheeler (.351) and INF Jake Elmore (.344) led the Pacific Coast League in batting average. Eaton also led the PCL in hits (186) and runs scored (119), as well as several other offensive categories.
Eaton, Elmore and Wheeler all made their Triple-A debut with Reno, but none returned for the 2013 season. Eaton, who is currently on the D-backs disabled list, is expected to spend the season with Arizona once he has recovered. Elmore (Houston) and Wheeler (Colorado) joined different organizations in the offseason.
The 2013 season has brought a new slate of players to Reno, excited to be in Triple-A for the first time. This group includes INF Chris Owings, who is off to a hot start.
“It was exciting coming to Reno out of Spring Training,” said the 21-year-old Owings. “I thought I would be going to [Double-A] Mobile.”
Owings entered Monday night’s game, the 25th game of the season, tied for first in the PCL and all of baseball in hits, with 38. Albuquerque’s Scott Van Slyke, son of former All-Star Andy Van Slyke, also has 38 hits. Owings collected his 400th career hit with Reno on April 9 at Salt Lake City. He has recorded a multi-hit game in 12-of-24 games, and has not collected a hit on only four occasions.
The 2009 D-backs supplemental first-round draft pick is also tied with Omaha’s David Lough for the PCL and Minor League Baseball lead in runs scored (24), trailing just Detroit’s Austin Jackson (25) to lead all of baseball.
“I’m just trying to do my thing,” said Owings. “I really don’t try to look at stats a lot; I’m not into that.
“I just try to come out here and score some runs, help the team out, and hopefully get some more wins.”
In addition to Owings, RHP Chase Anderson, RHP Charles Brewer, INF Matt Davidson, RHP Eury De La Rosa, C Ed Easley, OF Evan Frey, RHP Matt Gorgen, INF Taylor Harbin, RHP Evan Marshall, RHP Bo Schultz and LHP Tyler Skaggs have all spent time with the D-backs Double-A affiliate Mobile BayBears. The BayBears won back-to-back Southern League Championships in 2011 and 2012.
Who, or what, does Reno have to thank for the influx of successful players from Mobile?
“I don’t know what’s going on,” said Owings, with a chuckle. “I think the winning mindset in Mobile, and winning two league championships back-to-back really helps out.
Adjusting to play at a new level can be intimidating, especially for young players such as Owings.
“It’s a lot different up here, especially with traveling by plane,” said Owings. “I’m just trying to get used to it, and get this first month under my belt.”
Reno has a reputation for being one of the premier Triple-A ballparks, and Owings agrees.
“Playing here is awesome, it’s a nice field,” said the South Carolina native. “It’s awesome to come here and say that it’s our field.”
Aces Grounds Manager Eric Blanton won the Pacific Coast League Turf Manager of the Year award in two of the first four years of the club’s existence, and consistently ranks within the top Grounds Managers across Minor League Baseball.
“It’s a little different, the wind is definitely a factor here,” said Owings. “The wind is going to right field just about every night.”
Aces Ballpark is notorious for being a hitter’s park, and Owings said he heard about the environment from others in the D-backs organization.
“I heard about it in Spring Training,” he said. “If you hit a ball to right field in a game, the guys will say ‘Oh, that’s going to Reno!’ or something like that.
“The wind plays a little bit of a factor, but you don’t really think about it too much.”
Looking forward to the rest of the season, Owings said he is excited for what is to come.
“It’s pretty cool that we’ll have the All-Star Game,” said Owings. “Hopefully I can try to make that.”