07/08/09 2:30 AM ET
Hit streak puts prospect in elite group
McOwen makes it 44 straight with broken-bat single
By Mason Kelley / Special to MLB.com
He stepped into the batter's box in the eighth inning on Tuesday night, knowing he needed to find a hole if he wanted to extend his hitting streak to 44 games. But he also understood what he had already accomplished, so he tried not to overthink anything.
The 23-year-old dropped a broken-bat single into left field, providing one of the High Desert Mavericks' few bright spots during a 12-2 loss to the San Jose Giants.
"I felt like it's been a good ride so far, so I'm not going to let the last game put a damper on it," said McOwen, trying to describe his mind-set before he extended the streak. "There weren't really any regrets going into the last at-bat. Whatever happens, happens. I went through the same approach. If it works out, it works out."
However, once he was standing on first base, he was able to let out a sigh of relief.
With the single, McOwen owns the eighth-longest hitting streak in Minor League history. It's the longest in the last 55 years, passing Brandon Watson (2007) and three others. It also was the seventh time he found the hit he needed in his final at-bat.
"It hasn't really sunk in yet as far as the last 55 years," McOwen said. "I'm just enjoying the moment and trying not to read too much into it. I don't want to talk myself out of anything."
Streaking in the Minors
|The longest hitting streaks in Minor League history.|
|69||Joe Wilhoit||Wichita (WL)||1919|
|61||Joe DiMaggio||San Francisco (PCL)||1933|
|55||Roman Mejias||Waco (BSL)||1954|
|50||Otto Pahlman||Danville (III)||1922|
|49||Jack Ness||Oakland (PCL)||1915|
|49||Harry Chozen||Mobile (SA)||1945|
|46||Johnny Bates||Nashville (SA)||1925|
|44||James McOwen||High Desert (CAL)||2009|
|43||Brandon Watson||Columbus (IL)||2007|
|43||Eddie Marshall||Milwaukee (AA)||1935|
|43||Howie Bedell||Louisville (AA)||1961|
|43||Orlando Moreno||Big Spring (LHL)||1947|
|42||Jack Lelivelt||Rochester (IL)||1912|
|42||Herbert Chapman||Gadsden (SEL)||1950|
|40||Frosty Kennedy||Plainview (WT-NM)||1953|
The 6-foot, 200-pound outfielder knew the day would be a grind with an 8 a.m. bus trip to San Jose. But before that, there was an interview on ESPN's "First Take."
"It was a little nerve-wracking hearing your voice on national TV for the first time, but I got through it," he said. "I kind of stuttered a little bit in the beginning."
Then, to provide some extra rest for the players, the Mavericks didn't take batting practice, giving McOwen little time to prepare before trying to prolong the streak for at least one more day.
To top it off, San Jose named McOwen the "beer batter," prompting the San Jose fans to ride him throughout his first three at-bats.
"This is definitely the first time I noticed it," McOwen said of the promotion that provides discounted beer if the designated batter strikes out. "I gave it to them twice. This stadium is different because the fans are right on top of you. But it's fun. It lets you know that people care. If the fans are against your or for you, it still makes it exciting either way."
As he continues to make history, McOwen knows the memories are piling up, but he is having a hard time finding a way to put the experience in perspective. At this point, he doesn't think he will fully grasp what he has accomplished until the season ends.
With so much success -- a .353 batting average, 12 doubles, seven triples, five homers and 53 RBIs through 69 games -- some have wondered if McOwen remains in the Class A Advanced California League because of the streak. However, he's yet to hear anything about a future promotion. With outfielders like Greg Halman and Ezequiel Carrera already playing for Double-A West Tenn, not to mention Tyson Gillies (.323 average) and Carlos Peguero (18 homers) who are putting up big numbers for the Mavericks, he does not expect to get called up this season.
"I haven't heard anything," he said. "I know there are a lot of good players up in Double-A. It's tough to move around in this organization. There are a lot of talented outfielders. Even on my team there are guys doing just as well as me. I'm not going to have any regrets about not playing in Double-A.
"It's a good time here. I'm really developing my game, so maybe next year I'll give myself a good shot at Double-A."
For now, he just wants to stay in the moment because he knows the streak won't go on forever. He makes the most of each at-bat, even when he is left with one final chance to keep it going, on the road, at the end of a long day.
"It's something I want because I'm competitive," McOwen said. "It's going to be a letdown for me when it ends, for sure, but even if it would have ended tonight I could have looked back and said, 'Wow, 43 games.' There's nothing really to be mad about."
Mason Kelley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.