Cubs reliever Michael Bowden was part of the Cubs Caravan group that stopped at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark on Thursday to visit the team’s new Low-A affiliate, the Cougars. Although the Aurora product did not pitch at the park as a Midwest Leaguer, he did play there when his alma mater, Waubonsie Valley, advanced to the state baseball tournament in 2005. Drafted by the Boston Red Sox that summer, Bowden, a boyhood Cubs fan, landed in Chicago in August as part of the trade that sent Marlon Byrd to Boston. Kane County Chronicle sports reporter Kevin Druley caught up with Bowden for this week’s edition of the Weekend Chit-Chat. The following is an edited transcript:
You saw your share of Midwest League games as a kid, but never played in the league, right?
I grew up here and I grew up coming to Kane County games, but that’s the extent of it. I played a state championship game here, but Low-A was in the South Atlantic League. I’m not too familiar with the league.
They’ve added a second deck since you played here. How much have you come since you were drafted [by Boston] your last summer of high school?
No, I have not been back since we’re always playing during the season. ... I remember ’05. I mean, this is an awesome stadium, especially for a Low-A team. It’s a great place to play a game. Great atmosphere. Good crowds. I think it’s awesome that it’s now a Chicago Cubs affiliate, being so close and everything.
Was it pandemonium when you visited Fox Chase [Elementary School in Oswego] with the caravan earlier?
The kids were so excited, yeah. It was elementary school, so yeah, there was a very good atmosphere there. ... We’re trying to preach to the schools we go to, just health and fitness. So we’re showing them some exercises, talking about eating well, just staying active. ... We were there just under an hour.
Growing up a Cubs fan, did the caravan ever come your way or did you ever go to the Cubs Convention?
I went to some games growing up, but I was never fortunate enough to have the caravan stop by my school or anything.
What do you recall about coming to Cougars games as a kid?
Sitting on the hill, watching baseball. Doing the speed pitch. Just watching a good baseball game in a nice facility, you know. It’s just a good baseball atmosphere, a good place to watch a game.
You’re touching the 90s these days, I know. Any guess on where that pitch speed was as a kid?
Oh, man. No. But hopefully it increased every year I came.
Talk about the outlook going to Mesa [Arizona] instead of Florida for spring training.
This is my first ever Arizona spring training, so I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be exciting to me.