To many, Larry Bowa is a dinosaur. The 75-year old former player, former coach, former manager and current senior advisor to Phillies GM Sam Fuld has seen a lot and hasn’t turned away from the game that he has always loved. Even with all of the changes, both in rules and approaches to the game, Bowa loves the game much like he did when he was a wide-eyed rookie.
“I still enjoy watching these kids play. It’s especially fun when you go watch them in A-ball and then maybe the next year you see them in Double-A or Triple-A and you can see the progress that they have made,” said Bowa. “No matter what changes have been made, you still love the game of baseball.”
The current Phillies organization represents one of the biggest changes that Bowa has seen in the game. Throughout the season, young players have been moved up and down and back and forth between Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia. While some can handle the moves, to others, it’s not easy to keep making the adjustment between playing every day and then sitting and waiting while not knowing when your next start is going to come. It’s a situation that Bowa simply can’t relate to.
Bowa played four seasons of minor league ball before making his major league debut on April 7, 1970. Once he came to the majors, he never went back to the minors.
“I came up in the early ’70s and to be honest, we didn’t have a good team, but it was a rebuilding team and if it wasn’t a rebuilding team, I would have been sent out,” Bowa admitted. “They decided to stay with me, stay with Luzinski, stay with Schmidty. Schmidt hit under .200, a lot of people forget about that. If we were supposed to win, we would have probably all been sent out. The timing of everything is important.”
If shuttling back and forth is an issue, how would Bowa have handled missing a full season like minor league players did last season.
“I think that it hurt some guys. Especially with pitchers, you get guys who don’t have a lot of innings and you can’t go from 40 or 50 innings last year to getting 150 innings. That’s hard to do,” explained Bowa. “It stunted their progression and slowed them down a bit. Any time you miss a year, that’s hard on the player and it’s a year lost.”
As part of his role with the Phillies, Bowa travels to minor league parks to watch young players and check in on how they’re developing. He is also on hand for every Phillies home game to give input on current Phillies and opposing players. He also has a new project doing a television show with longtime friend Charlie Manuel. Just don’t call Bowa a TV star.
“I’m not a TV star,” laughed Bowa. “It’s fun though. We get to do some fun things and go to some great places. We’re basically just hanging out.”
With all of its warts, Bowa still sees good days ahead for both the team he loves and the game he loves. He sees Alec Bohm as a future major leaguer who will hit well and figure out how to play defensively whether it’s at third base or at first base. The problem is that the Phillies of today are doing things differently than they have in the past.
“If you look back to when I played, we had a core group of guys who came up through the system together and all played together. Then, the organization filled in with free agents and some trades and that sort of put the finishing touch on the team and we won in 1980. It was the same thing in 2008. You had a core group of guys who all came through the system together and then they went out and got the missing pieces that they needed to win,” recalled Bowa. “This team today doesn’t have that core group to fill in around. They’ve gone out and gotten free agents and picked up some big guys and now they have to find guys to fill in around them, but they have to do it without spending too much on free agents.”