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|Bowden begins professional career|
Vidalia's Barry Bowden flew out this morning (Wednesday) to North Carolina to begin his professional baseball career.
"I'm excited," Bowden said. "I've been waiting my whole life to get the chance to play pro ball."
Bowden, who was not selected in last week's amateur draft, is scheduled to report to Burlington, North Carolina later this week and play for the Burlington Royals at the Class A level of Minor League Baseball.
Burlington is an affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-hand pitcher finished with an 8-3 record his senior year at Southern Miss, posting a 2.12 earned run average and striking out 78 batters over 72 innings, walking 22. Opposing batters hit .188 against him, and that was against some stout competition.
"I thought I had a pretty good year," said Bowden, who missed about two weeks during the season after injuring a muscle in his right shoulder.
Bowden returned from the injury on April 5 by not allowing Memphis a hit for five innings in the Conference USA Tournament before coming out because of a pre-determined pitch count. He retired the first 14 batters he faced before issuing a walk to KK Chambers with two outs in the fourth inning. In his five innings of work he struck out six Tiger hitters.
Bowden can boast of an accomplishment few other pitchers have done in their collegiate careers - pitching in four NCAA Regionals.
"If you had asked me a month before the draft if I would have been drafted I would have said yes," Bowden said. "I talked with a few scouts who told me my medical history hurt me. If I would have been healthy all year I feel like I would have been drafted. But I'm getting the opportunity now and I feel like we are all on an equal basis. I have no pressure on me, I'm just going to go out and hopefully pitch the way I am capable of pitching and hope things work out."
Bowden becomes the fifth Southern Miss player from the 2008 team to have a chance to play professional baseball this summer. Tyler Conn (Tigers), Josh Billeaud (White Sox), Trey Sutton (Giants) and Brian Leach (Pirates) were all selected in last weeks amateur draft.
Billeaud and Leach are only juniors and could return to Southern Miss for their senior seasons.
Bowden was a first team All Conference-USA selection this season, was named C-USA pitcher of the week three times and national pitcher of the week twice in the same week by two different publications.
The Burlington Royals start with an exhibition game on Father's Day, June 15th, with the Monroe Channelcats of the Southern Collegiate Baseball League.
The Royals will begin the regular season at home for one game, June 17th, against the Danville Braves. They will then travel to Danville for two games to begin road play.
The Royals come back to town for a six game home stand which will include three games against a new face in a familiar place, the Pulaski Mariners. The Seattle Mariners have added an affiliate in Pulaski, Va., one year after the Toronto Blue Jays left to join the Gulf Coast League.
The season will conclude at home just the way it started, against Danville, August 26.
"I've got a few friends I've talked to who play in the Minors," Bowden said. "Ryan Belanger is playing there and he told me I will like it. I'm just glad to not be going to Arizonza."
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