Bryce Stowell is the complete opposite of his pitches. He’s anything but nasty, wicked and intimidating. His ego is certainly not consistent with his major league potential—which is huge. The man that can throw a 95-mile-an-hour fastball, along with a devastating curve ball, is far friendlier as a person than he is as a pitcher.
Stowell would be a Friday night starter for the vast majority of college teams. Following his scoreless seven-inning performance last week against Northridge, Stowell lowered his season ERA to 2.12 and racked up his strikeout total to 72 in 68 innings of work. Having an ace pitch every Saturday has been a blessing for the Anteaters, but it took quite a sacrifice for Stowell to make it to UC Irvine in the first place.
The prized right-hander committed to Pepperdine after graduating high school. It seemed like the perfect situation—playing division one college baseball for a tremendous program right by the beautiful Malibu beaches. Luckily for UCI, it was no match made in heaven.
“Things didn’t really work out for me. The coaches and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on things and sometimes that happens. I really wanted to go somewhere else and that place happened to be UC Irvine,” Stowell said.
UCI had recruited Stowell while he was in high school, and his dad had even pitched for the Anteaters from 1980-1981. Obviously, he was welcomed with open arms, but as with all transfer athletes, he was required to sit out the entire next season—unfortunately, it was not an ideal year to be limited to spectator duties.
“Watching the team go through Texas, Wichita and Omaha—it was tough, I’m glad [the waiting is] over,” Stowell said. “It was tough on all the guys who had to sit out. We were so glad for the team, but we were hurting pretty badly at the same time.”
From the Anteaters’ perspective, it was like getting a Ferrari, but waiting a year for the keys. This season they’ve arrived, and they’re enjoying giving their Ferrari a spin every Saturday.
Before he even threw a pitch for UCI, Stowell was tabbed the 21st-best sophomore in the nation by Baseball America. With a knee-buckling breaking ball and a gaseous fastball, scouts didn’t need to see him pitch before they knew he projected as a future major leaguer.
“I don’t really focus too much on [expectations] because once you do that, they go to your head. But it’s cool. Getting that kind of notice is always awesome. I don’t know how they come up with those rankings but I’m blessed to have been recognized like that,” Stowell said.
“It was kind of weird hearing that stuff, because you’re trying to focus on the team but then again you hear about all these little things on the side and I think to myself, ‘What? I’m not even playing yet.'”
He has many secret admirers that are googly-eyed over his abilities on the field. However, his qualitative characteristics will receive high praise from ball clubs looking to claim Stowell next month in the Major League Draft.
Always respectful and humble, Stowell has a charming “Aw shucks” attitude that fits in perfectly with a UCI team that embodies selflessness. This time of year is exciting for the entire Anteater team as the postseason approaches, but it’s especially exciting for Stowell. He’s bound to be selected in the early rounds on draft day and be offered an attractive signing bonus, but you’d have to Google his name to discover those sorts of things. No matter his success on the mound, Stowell will always be the antithesis of a big-shot athlete.
“I never thought coming out of high school I would have done what I have. It’s been a big blessing. But when you’re around the guys that I’m around it’s easy,” Stowell said. “We keep each other even and on the same plane.”
It’s been a blessing that Stowell didn’t fit in at Pepperdine, but it’s hard to imagine Stowell not fitting in anywhere. Every team loves a 6-foot-2-inch pitcher with extraordinary raw talent, especially when he has a tireless work ethic to complement it. Stowell not only has a combination of both, he exudes an invaluable level of graciousness and composure as well, both on the mound and in the clubhouse. As a result, it will be no surprise to see Stowell pitching for many years after his career as an Anteater is concluded.
Despite the excitement of fulfilling his dream of becoming a professional ball player, Bryce admits it’s going to be a hard decision whether or not to forego the remainder of his career as an Anteater. His teammates have made it hard for him to envision any pastures being greener than the ones at UCI.
“There’s definitely something unique about this team here. We just bond like a family. We were close at Pepperdine, too, but I would have to say it’s nothing like what we have here. That’s a tribute to our success,” Stowell said.
The Anteaters would love to watch Stowell mow down hitters for at least another year at Anteater Ballpark, but if he’s pitching in the minor leagues instead, then it was a pleasure to have watched such a special pitcher and an even more special individual.