Earlier today, Lynn English senior lefthander Ben Bowden verbally committed to Vanderbilt, choosing the Commodores over offers from NC State, UMass and Rhode Island. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound fireballer continues a recent trend of the Bay State's top pitchers declaring their commitment to Vandy.
Much has been made of the budding pipeline from the Bay State to Nashville -- speared by head coach Tim Corbin, a Wolfeboro, N.H. native -- discussed in this recent piece from Marty Dobrow. All six Massachusetts natives expected to represent on the 2013 roster were drafted coming out of high school, starting with St. John's Prep's Mike Yastrzemski (2009, Mariners) and following with Amherst's Kevin Ziomek (2010, Diamondbacks), Lawrence Academy's Tyler Beede (2011, Blue Jays), Lincoln-Sudbury's Adam Ravenelle (2011, Yankees), BB&N's Rhett Wiseman (2012, Cubs) and Braintree's Pat Delano (2012, Red Sox).
It's too early to tell where Bowden projects for draft potential, but he has slowly been rising on the radar since throwing a perfect game last April 7 against Marblehead. He made the "Starting Rotation" of ESPN Boston's MIAA All-State Team in June, and this summer has been clocked in the 90-91 range on his fastball, to go with a low-70's curve and mid to high-70's changeup.
Bowden spoke with ESPNBoston.com tonight for some additional comments on his verbal to Vandy.
Why the timing was right: "The reason it wasn’t official right away when I first planned on committing [earlier this summer] was because we were just making sure I would have the grades to get in, and I wanted to make sure that was all set. Coach [Derek] Johnson, the pitching coach, called me up today. He said he talked to admissions, I was all set and ready to rock. That's pretty much what made the decision happen today."
Deciding factors: "I love the coaching staff, they made me feel really comfortable, I loved the campus. Also, the degree from Vanderbilt is incredible, which helped. Also just the level baseball. It's the SEC, it's such a high level, and that's something I want to be part of. Basically all those reasons came together. My dad came down with me and he loved it, and then it was pretty much a done deal. Once I left campus, I could see myself there."
His dad a dealbreaker? "Pretty much yeah (laughs). He loved it. He loved everything about it, he loved the campus, he loved Nashville. Everything was awesome."
On his relationship with head coach Tim Corbin: "I've talked to him since the middle, towards end of sophomore year. He saw me pitch a few times, he saw me pitch in the Summer Rivalry Classic -- I actually didn't made the team, it was tryout, but he saw me there. He saw me down in Florida, and we've had a connection since then, talking either on the phone or on Facebook. He's got a Vanderbilt baseball page [on Facebook] where he messages kids, updates on different stuff. We message each other back and forth, I let him know what's going on, he lets me know the interest there. Him being from up here, he actually worked in Lynn for I don't know how many years, whether he was a mechanic or something. But he knows the area, we talked about New England sports all the time, it was cool. He is a good guy."
On the other Massachusetts natives on the roster: "I don’t know really any of them. I just started talking to Tyler Beede the other night, picking his brain about what he likes down there, the campus and stuff. Obviously I plan on developing a relationship with those guys when I go down for an official visit, it will be cool."
What he's been doing since the end of high school season: "Basically nothing but baseball. I went down to Georgia for two weeks with the North Rast Rays. [Director and coach] Scott Patterson is a good guy and a good coach, he's helped me with the recruiting process a lot. I've also been with the Boston Astros, coach Robert Louis Jr., hanging out with those guys. I do [North Shore Baseball League] with Coach Cap [his high school coach, Joe Caponigro] playing for his team [Swampscott Sox]. Cap actually made the first call to Coach Corbin, just telling him 'Look out for this kid'. He's contacted tons of other schools, he's been unbelievable."
What he's been looking to improve this summer, and whether he'll continue playing basketball this winter: "My biggest thing would be having my curveball get up in speed, more break, tighter spin, I definitely need to work on that, strengthening my forearms. I've gotta work on my legs to get my fastball up a few miles per hour -- 90 is good, but I expect myself to be at least 2-3 miles per hour faster by next summer.
"I played basketball last year, and I think as much fun as I had playing basketball -- I love coach [Mike] Carr and everything -- it kinda delayed my pitching. I had the good game against Marblehead [a perfect game on April 7], but I wasn’t where I wanted to be necessarily. I lost a lot of interest from some colleges because I didn't throw hard as they wanted me to. So instead, I've been throwing all summer long.
"I'm still thinking about leaving basketball. I'm leaning that way so I can be fully prepared, because we've got the draft and everything. Where it's at right now, I don't see myself playing. But it was fun while it lasted."