Reporting Shane Kitzman
What does Bethel’s star senior pitcher Matt Rowley share with Tim Tebow?
Each of them have – at one point – been in the running as a Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup Recipient, awarded to those who “demonstrate the highest level of character and leadership off and on the field, and for their contributions to sport and society.”
While Rowley finished as one of 20 national semifinalists this year – Tebow ended up the winner of the national award back in 2009 – the recognition serves as a much-deserved billboard for Rowley, showcasing how one of the state’s best athletes also happens to be one of the most selfless men.
The 6-foot-1-inch, 180-pound honor roll student from Minnetonka, Minn. – and proud son of George and Susan – was last year’s MIAC’s leader in batting average (.493), hits (36) and slugging percentage (.671).
Here’s what made Rowley not just the reigning MIAC Baseball Most Valuable Player, but also the Most Valuable Volunteer.
His helping hands reach everywhere
Rowley: “I pitch in at the Hospitality House in north Minneapolis with my parents. It’s a youth after-school program, where kids can go play sports, learn how to read better, and finish their school work.”
The volunteering continues…
“I got to organize a breakfast for businessmen to donate their money or time to the organization, and it raised $30,000 for the Hospitality House. I also volunteer through Feed My Starving Children, or work delivering furniture to families in need.
I have worked with Simpson Housing Services before, and packed Christmas boxes for children around the world who wouldn’t get Christmas gifts.”
The MVP is just as good at the plate as on the mound
In the 2012 season, he was in the MIAC’s top five for nearly everything, including batting (.427), hits (61), total bases (91), on-base percentage (.494), innings pitched (80) and starts (12).
On the bump, he dropped his ERA from 7.63 in 2010, to 6.49 in 2011, to 2.47 last season.
And solely within league play, Rowley tallied a 1.92 ERA and recorded a .989 fielding percentage playing center field.
Throwing in the 80s, his style is simple
Rowley: “The way I approach pitching is to get ahead with batters. I don’t want to walk anybody. I’ll throw a curveball on two strikes because that’s my strikeout pitch — the hardest pitch to hit.”
Got a bit of help from a former major leaguer
Rowley: “I worked out consistently with former professional pitcher Jim Brower. He went to my church in Minnetonka, and pitched for the Giants and the Braves.
He gave me certain types of workouts, getting my body ready, and learning how to make my swing perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect, not just practice.”
The Hopkins High School grad has a 3.5 GPA at Bethel as an entrepreneurship and marketing major
Rowley: “I have my own lawn service since I was 16 — Matt’s Lawn Service. I’ve had some buddies hired and they come help. I usually do it two days a week. It’s busy every spring and fall. It’s necessary to do that going to a private school that’s over $40,000 a year.”
He’s going to give baseball a shot post-graduation
Rowley: “I think I’ll try out after college. They have a few open tryouts for the Twins. Going from Division III to the big leagues is a long shot, but I’d give it a try.”
A MIAC title and NCAA tournament berth are top goals
Rowley: “We lost a few key starters, but I think we’ve gained – especially in pitching category – some guys who are going to be good and some guys I think who are even better than me. I think we have a great chance in that aspect. It would be a big step for us, but it’s OK to have goals.”
He’s well aware of the reigning MVP pressure
Rowley: “People now know about me, and know a bit more about how I play. They’ll be more aware. The way I look at it, because of my faith, no matter what happens, I can give the glory to God.”
And when he isn’t on the diamond…
Rowley: “I have a girlfriend (Jenna) – we do lots of fun stuff together. I also taught myself how to play guitar, and I go up to the boundary waters to canoe and fish every summer.”