Ricky Bowen enjoying new role
by Johnathan Bentley
Apr 05, 2014 | 3549 views | 0 0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Daily Mountain Eagle - Johnathan Bentley
Ricky Bowen looks on as Logan Greathouse, 12, throws a pitch during a lesson at 31 Sports Academy in Sumiton. Bowen, who was part of Sumiton Christian’s 2004 state championship team, gives lessons at the facility on weekends. Photo by Johnathan Bentley
Daily Mountain Eagle - Johnathan Bentley Ricky Bowen looks on as Logan Greathouse, 12, throws a pitch during a lesson at 31 Sports Academy in Sumiton. Bowen, who was part of Sumiton Christian’s 2004 state championship team, gives lessons at the facility on weekends. Photo by Johnathan Bentley
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SUMITON — Ricky Bowen would like to pitch just one more game, stare down one last batter while soaking in the atmosphere on the diamond one last time.

That said, Bowen, 26, is perfectly happy leaving that last bit as a dream.

Now the owner of 31 Sports Academy, the former Sumiton Christian High School, Mississippi State University and minor-league pitcher has plenty on his plate as he grooms the next generation of major league hopefuls.

Bowen’s days and weeks are spent between Montgomery and Sumiton.

During the week, Bowen works on his degree while student teaching in the Montgomery area. Recently married — to former Curry High School all-sports star Kellye Jordan — Bowen also spends time giving baseball lessons in Montgomery and Sumiton.

“I love what I’m doing,” said Bowen, whose new operation is located behind the Red Barn Animal Clinic in Sumiton. “People have asked me if I would go back and play. I’d play one more game and then shut it down.”

Bowen, who played minor league baseball in both the Cincinnati and Minnesota farms systems, was an All-Star in the Florida State League just two years ago. He played independent league baseball last season.

“You know, God blessed me with the opportunity to play this long. It’s time to move in a different direction,” said Bowen, who graduates from Mississippi State with a degree in kinesiology in May.

Now that his pitching career is complete, he has more time to invest with his pupils.

“In my last couple years of playing I was doing this more and really fell in love it. That’s because there wasn’t anything like this around when I was growing up. To be able to take what I know and what I’ve learned over the years and give it back, that’s what’s fun to me,” Bowen said. “You used to have to travel and get outside of the community to find stuff. There wasn’t travel ball. There wasn’t summer ball, and there definitely wasn’t fall ball. Now all that is available.

“The game has changed. The basic fundamentals are the same, but now you’ve got to be bigger, stronger, faster,” he continued. “Everything we are doing here is trying to bend that learning curve so that you are learning faster and able to achieve things at a quicker pace. Things are getting so competitive so early now.”

Bowen’s lessons are for all ages from the smallest little leaguer to aspiring college players.

No matter the age, he’s pushing his plan.

“The thing that I’m trying to teach these kids is that you think you are working hard. You think you are doing something, but there is somebody out there hungrier than you are, that wants it more than you want it. You not only have to match them, you have to beat them. There is nothing wrong with being the best.”

Bowen’s 31 Sports Academy started coming into focus in December.

That’s when he began working on his new facility — which was little more than a small, metal, open-ended building in the beginning.

“We just had a roof,” Bowen said. “By the next weekend, everything was up. Most of this is what I’ve accumulated over time.”

At first glance, Bowen’s lesson-plan may look strange — youngsters hitting huge tires with sledgehammers for instance — but everything ties in to the game.

“That mimics the way you finish when you are pitching,” Bowen explained.

In just a few months time, Bowen’s methods have caught on.

The typical Saturday has Bowen arriving at the facility in the early morning, starting his first lesson at 8 a.m. and leaving for home after 9 p.m.

“Right now it’s rough. I’m student teaching. I’m here on the weekends. Honestly, this thing wouldn’t be possible without (Kellye). She has to put up with so much. I’m blessed to have a wife that understands. I’m gone a lot and working all the time,” he said. “I have to thank my parents and family for their support through my playing career. I couldn’t have done it without them. I also have to thank the Tavel family for their support in getting the business started as well as the Bryants. I’ve been surrounded by good people.”

Along with Bowen, Shayne Kelley and Kevin Bryant are also instructors.

Kelley played in the minor leagues in the Kansas City Royals organization and served as an assistant coach for the Texas Rangers. He was also the head coach at Gadsden State and served on staffs at Jacksonville State, Samford and Alabama.

Kevin Bryant played collegiately at Wallace State and Samford.

Along with baseball lessons, 31 Sports Academy also offers softball lessons and strength and conditioning.

Those interested in lessons at 31 Sports Academy may reach Bowen at rbowen31@gmail.com.

He may also be reached at 31 Sports Academy’s Facebook page.