It’s been a rough couple of years for Citrus baseball. The team has gone 26-35 over the past two seasons, and is currently trying to break out of a slump where they’ve lost 12 of their last 14 games.
But Mike Rowland doesn’t hang his head when he strikes out. More importantly, he doesn’t do it when his teammates do, either.
“As far as character is concerned—and I’ve been coaching for 40 years—Michael is number one,” said Owl assistant head coach Bill Viverto. “I’ve never seen a nicer, more respectful young man than Michael Rowland.”
“His demeanor is always the same, he’s always in a good mood. Happy—whether he strikes out with bases loaded or hits a grand slam. It’s still the same Mike.”
It comes in handy for Rowland, as he’s dealt with frustrations of a struggling team for two years now. A utility fielder, he’s managed to turn a solid freshman year into an outstanding sophomore edition, as his .309 batting average is second on the team. Rowland currently leads the Owls with 21 RBIs, including 2 home runs.
Close friend and fellow sophomore teammate William Ouellette says the improvement stems from Rowland’s work ethic.
“We’re always here before and after practice, working hard, taking extra hacks, ground balls,” Ouellette said, “whatever it takes to get to the next level and be the best we can be.”
Even his time off the field is dedicated to baseball. When he’s not at practice or at school, he’s working at the batting cages or spending time training the next batch of ballplayers.
Rowland manages the 12-and-under Ayala Black Dogs, the feeder team into the Ayala High School Bulldog program where he earned a spot in the program’s Hall of Fame.
But Rowland attributes his even-keeled attitude to his struggles, not his successes. He attended Loyola Marymount University and joined the baseball team, but was unable to see much time on the field. He transfered to Citrus after only a year with the school.
“Being a freshman guy in a four year program is even harder than being a freshman guy in a two year program because you’re playing against some guys that are five and six years older than you,” Rowland said.
Rowland learned to stick out the slumps with a smile. He says he’s in talks with different schools, but would love to attend UC Santa Barbara, among others.
“Best of luck to Mike,” Ouellette said. “I know he’s going to do good things in the future and hopefully we see each other again at a higher level of baseball.”