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A symbiotic draft relationship for Land O'Lakes' Garcia, Wiregrass Ranch's Bowles

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Fri. June 4, 2010 | Izzy Gould | Email

When a batter gets doinked, fans expect one of two reactions.

Either the batter will trot to first base and shrug it off. Or he will charge the mound with revenge flying off his fists.

When Land O’Lakes ace Jason Garcia hit Wiregrass Ranch’s Spencer Bowles with a pitch, it sparked a friendship.

And in this day of iPhones, tweets and YouTube, Bowles did what seemed natural to a high school senior — he “Facebooked” Garcia.

“I think I said, ‘Nice pitch. It was a bit up and in,’ ” Bowles said. “He started laughing, ‘My bad bro.’ We’ve been Facebook friends because we heard each other’s names. All the baseball players are friends over Facebook.”

Garcia, as it turns out, also could be responsible for generating interest in Bowles from Major League Baseball scouts. For months, Garcia’s pitching performances have been stared down by dozens of radar guns behind home plate.

They have tracked the velocity of Garcia’s fastball, which he said recently topped out at 94 mph. Garcia said in talking with scouts, roughly 15 teams and counting, he has been told he has a major-league slider and his changeup has good movement. At least one team told him he could go as high as the 10th round.

Just this week, Garcia worked out for the Tampa Bay Rays with about two-dozen prospects at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg.

“It’s a big change because in the beginning of the school year there was no one,” Garcia said. “Then one showcase (last fall), and I just blew up. …I threw two innings, five strikeouts, one hit and topped out at 93 mph. I threw really good against the top hitters in Florida.”

And the scouts have been tracking Garcia ever since. Garcia went 6-4 this past season with 107 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.46.

Bowles first faced him Feb. 16 in what turned out to be a 2-1 Bulls’ victory. The winning hit came off Bowles’ bat in the top of the seventh inning.

“The first game there was 10 or 12 scouts,” Wiregrass Ranch coach Jeff Swymer said. “He hit a double off the centerfield wall to put us up 2-1. I’m sure that caught the attention of some guys. That’s why you like to play against guys like Garcia. You get to put your best against their best.”

What’s helped keep the scouts’ interest is a mix of hitting and catching skills, particularly Bowles’ “pop time,” the time it takes him to throw to second base. Numbers below 2.0 seconds are considered major-league caliber.

“My fastest ever was a 1.81 seconds,” said Bowles. “I’m not sure after that. I’m usually consistent in the low 1.9s.”

Garcia and Bowles maintained contact throughout the season and began workouts together when they were selected for last week’s FACA All-Star game in Sebring. They even roomed together.

Come Monday, the unlikely duo could be faced with some tough decisions. Garcia has signed with St. Petersburg College and Bowles with Saint Leo. Based on what kind of money they generate and where — or if — they get drafted is a guessing game.

Both plan to monitor the draft via computer and TV, and Garcia hopes to host some sort of get together with family and friends in anticipation of being selected at some point.

“Anywhere I get drafted will be good,” Garcia said. “Hopefully, I get the money I want and get to play pro baseball this summer. …It’s probably one of the longest weeks of my life waiting for Monday to come.”

Bowles’ view of the draft is a little bit different.

“I actually have a chance for my dream to come true,” Bowles said. “When the later rounds come I’ll watch on the computer. But I don’t want to get my hopes up.”

Others potential draft picks from the North Suncoast
P Jason Garcia, Land O’Lakes

P Conner Coplon, Land O’Lakes

P Cole Miraglia, Wesley Chapel

C Spencer Bowles, Wiregrass Ranch

OF Eugene Garnett Jr., Saint Leo

P Seth Fowler, Saint Leo

INF Jake Schrader (Pasco alum), Saint Johns River Community College

OF Brandon Decker (Gulf alum), Valdosta State

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampabay.com or (813) 421-3886.

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