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Staying the Course: A Summer of Preparing for the Unexpected

Hunter Owen remained game-ready while working at a local golf course
Hunter Owen spent his summer training for when baseball comes calling. (Photo contributed by Hunter Owen)
January 21, 2021

For Indiana native Hunter Owen, the cancellation of the 2020 Minor League Baseball season gave him rare opportunities as he continued to prepare for the unexpected.

For Indiana native Hunter Owen, the cancellation of the 2020 Minor League Baseball season gave him rare opportunities as he continued to prepare for the unexpected.

Born and raised in Evansville, Owen’s baseball career took him east after he graduated from Indiana State University. He made stops in West Virginia, Florida and Pennsylvania before finally, three years after being selected by Pittsburgh in the 25th round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft, returning home.

At the time – June 20, 2019, to be exact – he was leading the Eastern League with 15 home runs as a key member of the Altoona Curve lineup. The next day, he made his Triple-A debut in Indianapolis.

The rest of the 2019 season didn’t go quite as planned. He spent a little over three weeks on the injured list after being hit on the hand in his Victory Field debut, and then hit just .150 in his final 30 games. Despite this, he finished the season tied for fourth among Pirates minor leaguers with 19 home runs and ranked ninth with 40 extra-base hits.

Fast forward to early summer 2020. Spring training operations had been shut down in March, and when things picked back up with summer camp, Owen was left off the Pirates alternate site roster.

“Honestly, I was pretty surprised, especially coming after the year that I had,” Owen said. “But I understood the route that the Pirates were taking as for getting prospects in there and developing them. It was kind of a weird thing because nobody really knew what was going on and I was just trying to prepare myself for the unexpected.”

Before Owen could prepare for what the latter half of 2020 and eventually the 2021 season would bring, he had to react to what had happened.

With a summer full of free time on his hands, he reached out to Stony Creek Golf Club about a part-time job that would keep him busy. Luckily, it turned out to be exactly what he was looking for.

“I talked to the owner of the place and he was like, ‘Yeah, I totally get that your career is crazy right now and you don’t really know what to expect,’ but he was willing to work with me and was very flexible with the days and hours I worked,” Owen said. “That was super helpful.”

It also meant he could spend more time with his friends and family, time that he usually misses out on with a regular baseball schedule.

“It was super weird,” Owen said. “I feel like baseball kind of takes away from your family over the years during that six-month duration where everybody’s doing fun stuff [like] going out on the lake or just doing stuff outside and enjoying the weather. I got to do some of that stuff with my family, so I kind of just took advantage of that.”

When he wasn’t working at the golf course or spending time with family, he was doing exactly what he said he’d do after being left off the alternate site roster: preparing for the unexpected. That meant staying in shape and training for whenever he got the call to play organized baseball again, which wouldn’t be until the 2021 season.

Physically, he had to get creative, finding places to hit and work out when the gyms were shut down. Mentally, however, nothing has changed.

“I have the same mentality every year, just to get better and take advantage of every opportunity that I have,” Owen said. “I’m not going to sit back and feel sorry for myself for taking a year off because there’s a lot of guys in my position. I’m just trying to continue to get better and work at what I need to work on.”