The hometown kid
Your average Forest City Owl comes from a town far, far away from Rutherford County. They find a family willing to house them for two months and need directions for every food or Wal-Mart run. Not Lucas Owens.
Owens, a 2012 graduate of East Rutherford came home to play his summer ball. But even with the familiar scenery, Coastal Plain League baseball is still a unique experience for Owens.
“I’ve played [at McNair] during the Easter Tournament and it’s that hometown feeling. There are a lot of people sitting in those stands that supported me through my entire career,” Owens said. “The main difference is that kids more look up to me now than they did while I was in high school. Playing on this stage as a Forest City Owls is a big role model thing. All the Little Leaguers and T-ballers look up to you because you’re playing on a big stage for them. This is certainly a step down from the professionals but to them it’s special to watch.”
Owens is coming off his freshman season at UNC-Asheville where he made just three starts and 15 appearances during the season. He posted a .227 average in 22 at-bats, but his time with the Owls is about the future.
“My recruiting coordinator and pitching coach said I would have a great chance to be a part of the team next season and the years to come and I thought I should see more college pitching,” Owens said. “I could have played Legion and just tear it up but it was better for me to see pitching from guys from major Division-I schools so if we played that type of guy in our opener I’d be ready to go and not have to worry about velocity difference or anything like that.”
As an Owl, Owens has started games both in the infield and behind the plate batting .222 in eight games.
“My goal is just to be a team guy. I feel like my role is to try and lead by example,” Owens said. “At school I didn’t have the at-bats or the opportunities I wanted or felt that I deserved, but my goal now is to come out, show what I have, play my ballgame and help this team win.”
Not only is Ownes a team guy, his biggest role might be “Forest City liaison” to his out-of-towner teammates.
“I’m basically the go to gut if they need to know where something is,” Owens said. “I either take them or they have to follow me.”
Being back home has it perks though. While other Owls are living off of fast food and staying with a host family that may or may not see them for days at a time, Owens is going home to Momma’s cooking and his own bed.
“My college coach originally wanted me to play in the Cal Ripken League in Maryland but then Jeremy [Boler] called and said he would love to have me here,” Owens said. “When I told my mom I signed my contract to play for the Owls she was thrilled … and I get a little freedom living at home. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.”
Despite having his own bed nearby, like most CPL players, he sleeps upright more often than not.
“One tool that a baseball player needs is how to sleep on a bus. Sleeping on a bus is the most underrated tool a baseball player can have,” Owens joked. “It’s amazing the different forms of sleeping you can have on a bus.”
But when the players get off the bus and hit the field, Owens garners the loudest cheers from the McNair crowd each time is called over the loudspeakers. The hometown love is something that could bring him back to the Owls in the years to come.
“With this being my hometown I have a lot of people behind me and they’ll support whatever decision I make, but this is a quality league,” Owens said when asked of a potential return. “This league is not just a bunch of players; it’s some of the top players in the country.”
And like most ballplayers, baseball is what Owens hopes to do as long as he can.
“I just want to play until I know it’s my last day. You never know what day could be your last playing. I just want to play until I can’t anymore,” Owens said. “If that’s the professional level than so be it. If it’s the college level so be it. I’m lucky to be playing college baseball so if four years is all I got I wouldn’t be disappointed in myself because I know it’s a challenge to get here.”
Owens however, known for being a gutty player, is the type to make it happen.
“If you want something badly enough you can motivate yourself to do it,” Owens said. He seems to want it.