Owls have a wide wingspan

Jun. 27, 2013 @ 06:39 AM

The Forest City Owls are everywhere. From the Research Triangle, to the nation’s capital, to New York City, the Owls’ wingspan stretches farther than I thought.

In the recent MLB draft, nine former Forest City players were picked. If they make it to the Majors one day, there will be an Owl nesting in Miami, Seattle and all points in between. This kind of coast-to-coast invasion would make Alfred Hitchcock proud.

I began to ponder this point as I sat in section 104 of Turner Field recently, scanning the Mets roster. Midway down the column, I spotted a name I had not seen since 2009, that of former Forest City hurler Josh Edgin.

My mind flashed back to the times I covered Edgin and the rest of the “Big Green Machine” in 2009.

That team was as close to unbeatable as any baseball team could be, posting a remarkable 51-9 record. They shattered the CPL record book in almost every category, managing to not only capture the Petit Cup, but also a National Championship. That’s right. The Owls finished ahead of every other summer wooden bat team in the nation, including those in the fabled Cape Cod League. I hate to sound like Bruce Springsteen in “Glory Days”, but look at the team now. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

While Edgin is toiling in the bullpen for the Mets, another Owl recently patrolled the outfield in Omaha for N.C. State.

Tarren Senay donned the green and gold in 2010 and hit leadoff as the team went on to win another CPL title. I had forgotten that fact, until I read a quote from him in the Daily Courier.

I would be remiss without listing the accomplishments of fan favorites, Kevin Mahoney and Will Skinner.

Mahoney was an original Owl who started the memorable 5-4-3 triple play on opening night in 2008. Skinner finished his three-year career in Forest City by setting a CPL record for most career hits and doubles.

As a side note, both of these players had their numbers retired, then they were unretired as a money saving measure, but that’s another story.

Mahoney is currently with the Triple-A affiliate of the Yankees, while Skinner is quickly rising in the ranks of the Braves farm system. Hopefully, they will join Edgin in the Majors soon.

Finally, there was a wise old Owl who settled in Washington D.C. No, he didn’t play for the Nationals or even the current incarnation of the Owls’ franchise. In fact, I don’t even remember his last name. I do remember his first name though. Bill and his story shows just how far- reaching the Owls really are.

It was a sweltering day in late July 2008. I was in the middle of an internship in Washington and decided to take in a Braves game versus the Nats. As the usher, who looked to be in his early eighties, was pointing me to the right seat, he asked where I was from. When I said Rutherford County North Carolina, he grinned and said, “You know I used to play baseball in Rutherford County back in the late ‘40’s. We were the only team with lights. That’s why they called us the Owls.” 

Bill then sat down and began to tell me about playing in Rutherford County, Spindale to be exact.

He said the Owls were a minor league affiliate of the Cubs. Bill told me how he had come from up north to chase dreams of major league stardom and the thing that stuck with him was how laid back the town and people were. I was happy to report that that fact had not changed over the past 60 years.

We talked for about ten minutes before he had to help other fans. Before he left, however, Bill signed my program, “Rutherford County was great. Best Wishes, Bill.”

These are just three of many examples of the Owls’ influence on the baseball landscape. I think that’s pretty special, considering Forest City is one of the smallest market in the CPL.  Here’s to hoping they can pull out of their slump before that influence starts to fade.