In a time when a radar gun is often the lone tool to determine whether a pitching prospect will be successful or not, Ben Rowen has taken an alternative approach to make his mark on the baseball landscape.
Noticing that Rowen didn't have a lot of zip on his fastball, a high-school coach convinced the rangy right-hander to convert to throwing sidearm, as he had seen success come to a former student who had tried the unorthodox style in the past.
"My coach had the idea of bringing me down to submarine because he had a similar player back in college with a similar body type. So I threw four years of sidearm and after that went to submarine. I've been doing it since the start of college, so it's been about 10 years now," says the former Palos Verdes High School student.
Now, a decade after adopting the low-sweeping delivery, Rowen leans on others in his tight-knit fraternity of sidearm slingers for advice on how to continue to be successful in a push to pitch at the highest level.
"My high school coach and I still chat a little bit. I've also called Chad Bradford, he's a former submarine pitcher and he had quite a good career so I've chatted with him about some ideas. Our pitching coach in Triple-A when I was with the Cubs was a sidearm pitcher as well. I've met a lot of guys along the way that have helped."
Rowen has made the most of the tips he's gathered along the way, quickly turning 2016 into one of the best seasons of his career. The 27-year-old hasn't allowed a run since May 8, making 16 appearances for the Bisons over that time.
With a streak of 22.1 scoreless innings on the line, the reliever takes a deep breath and a moment before explaining his most recent accomplishments.
"Lately I've been attacking the hitters, using my fastball a lot and getting ground balls. I'm trying not to nibble and just go after guys. I've been using my stuff and trusting it and I think that's been pretty successful for me lately."
Routines can only get a reliever so far, as they never know when they will be called upon, so streaks such as the one Rowen is on can be hard to maintain. However, the Virginia Tech product has been doing some extra-curricular work to stay in the zone.
"I've been working on a lot of mental skills stuff and that helps with my focus," says Rowen before expanding further on the game he loves.
"Streaks are kind of funny in baseball. Baseball's a funny game where this streak could keep going, or one little thing could go wrong. I could make my pitch and the hitter gets on it and just like that it's over. Baseball's funny so I guess I'm just going to ride it out as long as I can."
Perhaps another reason why the 22nd round pick in 2010 has had so much success with the Herd is that he's quite comfortable with his surroundings. Having spent a large portion of his childhood growing up in Eastern New York, a smile shines out from underneath Rowen's red beard while he recalls afternoons at Coca-Field with his family.
"I went to a lot of Bisons games. I was one of the kids you see running around and high-fiving Buster," laughs the reliever.
"I'm not sure who my favorite player was because I was pretty young, so I think I was a little more enamoured with Buster and Chip."
After bouncing around with three teams in 2015, Rowen was claimed by the Blue Jays last August, a team with which he has many connections. With his family located in nearby Williamsville, No. 38 supporters can always be found among the faithful fans at the ballpark.
"My Parents are here for every game and my wife's out here during the summer when she's not teaching. I've got a lot extended family here as well. The cool thing with the Blue Jays -- obviously I grew up here and they're close to Buffalo -- but I was also born in Dunedin, Florida, which is right where spring training is, so I'm kind of in the perfect place."
Making his time in Buffalo even more perfect, was a sunny Sunday afternoon in May when Rowen was able to catch the opening pitch on Mother's Day.
"That was awesome," exclaims Rowen with abundant joy clearly beaming through his blue eyes.
"It was something that just came together perfectly and my mom enjoyed it. We practiced a little bit before we went out there. It was a beautiful day and it was just awesome."
That afternoon was a perfect tie-in to the story of Rowen's career so far, for it was on a similar kind of day in which he made his Major-League debut for the Texas Rangers in 2014.
"I'm getting chills just thinking about it. That was an awesome day. Just another thing that came together perfectly. It was Father's Day and my dad was there in the stands. Seattle is a beautiful ball park so getting out there on the mound was pretty surreal. It was like being in a first-player video game going out there, just running in from bullpen was an amazing experience."
Looking for more of those experiences is now what inspires the rangy righty to perform at the highest level each and every day.
"I just want to go out there and be the best that I can. I know that I can compete against these guys and the best in the world. I want to go out there and prove myself," says Rowen.
"I want to go out there and be a submarine pitcher in a bullpen somewhere in the big leagues. Hopefully I can do that in Toronto."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.