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Mike Bowes MBA '21 on the field.

Mike Bowes MBA '21 on the field.

Mike Bowes MBA ’21 Finds His Way Back to Bronco Baseball

Series of missed cuts, tough breaks, injury, leads ballplayer on a journey to return to Santa Clara.

Series of missed cuts, tough breaks, injury, leads ballplayer on a journey to return to Santa Clara. 

It took a while, and plenty of heartache, but Bronco outfielder Mike Bowes MBA ’21 is back at Santa Clara University, playing some of the best baseball of his life.

Only this time around, he’s a graduate student.

Five years ago, as a sophomore, Bowes had to leave Santa Clara’s baseball team in order to play the game he loves. The separation and subsequent odyssey—a season at Mission College and two at San Jose State, where he earned his bachelor’s—taught him plenty about the vagaries of life, about honing his mental game, about believing in himself.

“In life, you will fail, maybe a lot,” says Bowes. “But if you stick to your process, and stick to your plan, that’s the one thing that will help you get through the ups and downs.”

Every day, he lives that mantra. On the wall facing his desk inside an off-campus apartment he shares with some SCU teammates, Bowes has taped favorite slogans on the wall: 

  • A setback is a setup for a comeback.
  • It’s not how great the opportunity, it’s how great you are to the opportunity. 
  • Your thoughts determine what you want, but your actions determine what you get. 

Taking it to the plate

“We all have dreams and ambitions that we want to achieve, but it’s not until you physically act upon them that you can get there,” explains Bowes, whose .313 batting average currently leads the team.

“I take that to the plate when I’m stepping into the box. It’s like I know that I’m capable of hitting the ball, I know I’m capable of doing it, but it’s not until I have the physical intent that I get the success I want.” 

The third-generation Bronco, who competed in ice hockey and baseball at Bellarmine, didn’t enter Santa Clara aiming to play baseball. But he did attend one of the prospect camps, where the coach told him he could try out for the team, which Bowes did, earning himself a spot on the roster as a walk-on. 

As a first-year, he would have to bide his time; older players got significantly more play and at-bats that year than Bowes. By his sophomore year, and under a new coach, he was hitting .300. Yet after the fall quarter ended, that coach let him go, saying Bowes’ defense in the outfield wasn’t up to snuff.

“It was definitely a surprise,” he recalls. “I felt like I had played well enough to compete for a starting spot.”

Stay or go?

The Mountain View native now faced a dilemma: he could stay at SCU as a student, or pursue his passion for baseball somewhere else. Except if he wanted to play for another Division-I program like Santa Clara, he’d have to sit out a full year before trying out for a team.

Bowes didn’t like the idea, so he reached out to local junior college teams in Division-II. At Mission College, coach Bobby Hill, a former Major League Baseball player, had just lost his right fielder to injury. Could Bowes join the team—winner of its conference title the previous year—and play for the Mission Saints?

The experience changed his life.

“He was a great mentor, with my hitting approach at the plate, with what to look for, and he helped me discover the ball player I am today,” says the Bronco, who blended in seamlessly with his new teammates, some of them, like himself, “bounce backs” from other D-I teams. Under Hill, Bowes had a  breakthrough season, with a hitting streak that extended to every one of the club’s 37 games, and a batting average of .434, the conference batting title that year. 

His confidence restored, Bowes hoped to return to SCU, but the Broncos were between coaches. While he waited to see who would be hired, his impressive stats at Mission College caught the eye of San Jose State’s baseball coach, who offered him a scholarship if he would play for the Spartans.

Watching his dreams die

It would be a trifecta, of sorts: Bowes could stay close to home and friends, complete his business management major at SJSU, and play under an exciting coach who had recruited him.

Bowes jumped at the chance, only to watch his dreams die at the end of the fall semester, when the coach was fired. The replacement didn’t play Bowes as much as his predecessor, and, adding injury to insult, a stress fracture sidelined him for the rest of his playing career at San Jose State.

“One thing I learned, and something we say here at Santa Clara as well, is the easiest day was yesterday,” Bowes says. “So just keep on keeping on, and understand the importance of being present.” 

There was a silver lining: the injury gave Bowes a redshirt, allowing him to lengthen his eligibility to play college baseball. Which is how he got the chance to play once more for the Broncos, this time while working on his graduate school degree here at Santa Clara in the fall of 2019.

By winter quarter 2020, the team had posted a sweep, going 12-5. Then COVID-19 surfaced, closing down the University in mid-March, cutting short a promising season and ending Bowes’ playing days. But the rollercoaster ride wasn’t over: because of the pandemic, league officials extended eligible playing time by one year for seniors. Bowes would be back. 

Sticking to the process

Months of quarantine and solitary strength training followed, along with weekly team Zoom meetings to elevate their spirits until the Broncos returned to the field in late February, opening up with a series against UC Santa Barbara. Bowes was named player of the week after hitting a home run in each game. During a series against University of San Francisco in April, he smashed a three-run walk-off home run, securing a come from behind 9-7 victory over the crosstown rival. With three series remaining, the Broncos (14-27, 7-17) take on Pepperdine this weekend, then St. Mary’s, and a re-match against USF that concludes May 30, the last day of the season. 

Bowes has reveled in every moment. While he doesn’t see an MLB career ahead of him—he’ll complete his MBA in the summer quarter, and hopes to walk in the June graduation—the turbulent years have taught him to focus on his strengths, and enjoy his time on the field.

“I’m just grateful for the opportunity to keep playing ball,” says Bowes, who has taken on a team leadership role, especially to young outfielders, who could learn a thing or two from their elder. 

“Working with 35 guys on a team every day, it’s unique,” he says. “Like they say, I’m trying to be present, and sticking to my process.”

 

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Mike Bowes MBA '21 on the field. Photo courtesy SCU Athletics.