Loewen attempting comeback to play in World Baseball Classic, don’t bet against him

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Adam Loewen (Surrey, B.C.), second from right, talks to emcee Mike Wilner at the Baseball Canada National Teams Awards Banquet and Fundraiser on Saturday. Loewen became the 11th member of Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence. Also in the photo from left to right: David Vander Voet, from RBC Wealth Management; Don Douglas, from RBC Wealth Management and 2022 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C.). Photo: Baseball Canada

January 20, 2023

By Kevin Glew

Canadian Baseball Network

Never bet against Adam Loewen.

That’s something those who follow Canadian baseball have learned over the past two decades.

The 6-foot-6 Surrey, B.C.’s native athleticism is off the charts, and so is his determination and love for the game.

This is a guy who reinvented himself three times – from a hard-throwing starting pitcher to a power hitting outfielder to a side-arming reliever – to prolong his career.

And then there’s his resilience and inner strength. He has faced heartbreak that no young husband and father should have to. On December 10, 2021, he lost his wife, Lynda, the mother of his two young children, to breast cancer. She was just 37.

These days, Loewen, who lives in Bothell, Wash., just north of Seattle, drives his children to and from school every day. He has dabbled in investments, but his primary job description is full-time father.

After all he has endured, it was wonderful to see him honoured as the newest member on Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence at the National Teams Awards Banquet and Fundraiser on Saturday.

“It’s truly an honour,” said Loewen at the press conference prior to the banquet. “Baseball Canada is really where I got started in my journey toward professional baseball. It got me ready and moulded me into a man. I still have so many friends here, and the friendships last forever.”

And Loewen could be seeing more of those friends in the next couple of months. The now 38-year-old believes he might have one last tournament in him. He is training to play for Canada in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

“I always did whatever I could to stay in the game,” Loewen said from the stage on Saturday. “I’m going to try to do it.”

When you consider that the big lefty hasn’t thrown a pitch or swung a bat in a game for Canada since 2019, it seems like a longshot, but we learned a long time ago never to bet against Adam Loewen.

***

Born in Surrey, B.C., in 1984, Loewen was a standout on the mound and in the batter’s box at a young age. In 1996, he helped lead his hometown squad to a Little League World Series berth.

Loewen attended Fraser Valley Christian High School and starred for the Whalley Chiefs of the British Columbia Premier Baseball League. His size, coupled with his power arm and bat, made him one of the most talked-about prospects in Canadian baseball history.

Loewen with the Junior National Team. Photo: Baseball Canada

He joined the Junior National Team in 2000. Greg Hamilton, head coach and director of men’s national teams for Baseball Canada, calls Loewen “the most gifted overall talent” he has ever had in the program.

“He’d fall into that small number of high school players that could be a first-round position player and a first-round pitcher and a Gold Glover defensively in the outfield,” said Hamilton. “He was an incredible athlete. He played the game with ease. He just did everything effortlessly.”

Loewen spent four years on the Junior National Team.

“He was one of those rare players that hit in the middle of the order and was also our top pitcher,” said Hamilton. “He was that talented.”

As the 2002 major league draft approached, Loewen’s home was a busy place.

“There were people coming in and out and setting up interviews – like agents, financial firms, calls from colleges, calls from scouts that wanted to come and interview me and see what I was like, and what my family was like,” recalled Loewen.

“It was a long process. But my parents helped me out with coordinating all that and they took the load off my shoulders and I’m forever grateful for that because I wouldn’t have been able to handle that without their support.”

With his 6-foot-6 frame and an arsenal that included a mid-90s fastball and a sharp breaking curve, the 18-year-old lefty was viewed as a can’t miss prospect. He was selected fourth overall by the Baltimore Orioles, which is still the highest any player born in Canada has ever been taken.

These days Shohei Ohtani is celebrated for being a two-way player. In 2002, Loewen had the tools and desire to be one, but the Orioles weren’t interested. They were focused on getting his left arm ready for their rotation.

It took several months for Loewen to come to an agreement with the O’s and he ended up playing a season for Chipola College in Marianna, Fla., where he not only excelled on the mound – adding a slider to his already potent repertoire – but also hit .353. He finally signed with the Orioles on May 27, 2003. His contract included a $3.2 million signing bonus.

Loewen’s first stop in the O’s organization was with the class-A Short-Season Aberdeen IronBirds where he’d strike out 25 batters in 23 innings. He continued his ascent up the minor league ranks with the High-A Frederick Keys in 2005 and was dominant in the Arizona Fall League.

This earned the then 21-year-old a spot on the Canadian roster for the inaugural World Baseball Classic, where he was tabbed to start against the powerhouse U.S. squad.

“I thought maturity wise he would be able to handle the pressure,” said Ernie Whitt, Canada’s manager, of his decision to start Loewen against the U.S. “He was a tremendous athlete and I told him to just be himself on the mound and we’ll see what happens.”

Hamilton was also confident.

“Adam had tremendous composure,” he said. “He had tremendous talent. He had the ability to throw strikes. We didn’t think that the moment would be too much because he had the ability to slow the game down at a very young age.”

Loewen wasn’t told until the day before that he was getting the start.

“I think they told me that late so I didn’t have to sit there and think about it, which was the right idea because I was pretty nervous,” said Loewen. “I hadn’t pitched above High A and here I was pitching against Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey Jr. and Chipper Jones . . . So, I was intimidated, but I knew that this is what I wanted to do with my life and eventually you’ve got to face your fears.”

Loewen loaded the bases in the first inning but got Jones to ground into a double play to end the frame.

“That was a moment for him to really take a step because to be able to make the pitch and get that level of hitter out in that inning when he was in some trouble, it was like seeing him grow up right in front of everybody,” said Hamilton.

Meanwhile Loewen’s teammates – led by outfielder Adam Stern (London, Ont.) – lit up U.S. starter Dontrelle Willis and relievers Al Leiter and Gary Majewski for eight runs.

Loewen held the U.S. scoreless for 3 2/3 innings before departing and Canada would hold on for an 8-6 win, one that still ranks as one of the greatest in Canadian baseball history.

It was also the first time we learned to never bet against Adam Loewen.

***

Loewen would make his major league debut with the Orioles on May 23 of that same year. He’d go 6-6 with a 5.37 ERA in 22 appearances (19 starts), spanning 112 1/3 innings in his rookie season.

He had posted a 3.56 ERA in six starts the following year when he suffered a stress fracture in his left elbow in early May and underwent surgery. He had a four-inch titanium screw inserted into his elbow, only to suffer another fracture in 2008.

Loewen was told after the second injury that his pitching career was likely over, so at the tender age of 24, he was left to contemplate his future.

“I felt like I was backed into a corner, so I had to think about what I could do to stay in the game,” he said.

He decided to focus on becoming a hitter.

On October 24, 2008, Loewen signed a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays and began reinventing himself as a left-handed hitting outfielder. He started in class-A Dunedin in 2009.

“I basically had to relearn how to hit,” said Loewen. “I had a very long swing and I had just taken five years off and devoted my life to pitching . . .  And it took me about a year before I felt I belonged or felt comfortable in the outfield, but after a year, things started to accelerate more rapidly.”

Though he hit only .236 with four home runs in 103 games for Dunedin in 2009, the Blue Jays were encouraged enough to send him to the Arizona Fall League, a circuit normally reserved for top prospects, following the campaign.

Loewen improved in 2010 when he hit .246 with 13 home runs in 129 games with double-A New Hampshire. Following that campaign, he played in the Arizona Fall League again and suited up for winter ball in the Dominican Republic.

And in 2011, all of his hard work paid off. He batted .306 with 17 home runs and 46 doubles in 134 games for triple-A Las Vegas, and he earned what many didn’t think would be possible — a big league call-up.

Loewen played in eight games for the Blue Jays and hit his first major league home run on September 11. It was a seventh-inning, game-tying blast off Orioles reliever Tommy Hunter at Rogers Centre in a contest the Blue Jays eventually won 6-5.

“My family was there so that was added excitement,” said Loewen. “When I was running around the bases, it was a rush of adrenaline . . . I was just kind of pinching myself in the moment and I wish I could’ve put that moment in a bottle and be able to revisit it now, because I never got to do anything like that again. It was just an amazing moment.”

A moment that proved once again that you should never bet against Adam Loewen.

***

After the 2011 season, Loewen signed with the New York Mets and spent the bulk of the next campaign with triple-A Buffalo. He would re-sign with the Blue Jays in January 2013 and bat .269 with 15 home runs in 115 games for double-A New Hampshire. But he felt his career had stalled, and with his arm feeling strong, he decided it was time to return to the mound.

Despite not having thrown a professional pitch since 2008, he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as a pitcher on April 16, 2014 and proceeded to post a 3.25 ERA in 19 starts between High-A and double-A that year. And after he recorded a combined 2.01 ERA in 40 appearances between double-A and triple-A in 2015, he was recalled by the Phillies and came out of the bullpen 20 times for them down the stretch.

Somehow, he had made it all the way back to the big leagues as a pitcher, proving once again that you should never bet against Adam Loewen.

***

Loewen returned to the big leagues the following year and made eight relief appearances with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

On February 13, 2017, he signed with the Texas Rangers, and looking for an edge that could make him a regular reliever in the big leagues, he switched to a sidearm delivery. He would go 6-0 with a 3.81 ERA in 50 appearances between double-A and triple-A that season.

After starting 2018 with the Rangers’ triple-A Round Rock Express, he was released and signed with the New Britain Bees of the independent Atlantic League, where he would dominate, posting a 1.64 ERA in 26 relief outings.

But his wife, Lynda, was battling breast cancer and he needed to be with her and his children, so Loewen hung up his playing spikes and returned home.

“I had two small kids,” said Loewen. “My wife was sick. I needed to be at home to take care of my family.”

Lynda lost her courageous battle with breast cancer on December 10, 2021 and Loewen is now a full-time dad.

“I drive my kids to school at 7 o’clock in the morning and pick them up at 3,” he said.

Adam Loewen (right) talks with former big leaguer Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) before the Baseball Canada National Teams Awards Banquet and Fundraiser on Saturday. Photo: Scott Crawford, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

On Saturday, Loewen was happy to be back with his fellow Baseball Canada alumni. Having them there made the honour of being named the newest member of Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence even more special.

“Adam played four years on our junior team. He’s played a number of times for our senior team. He’s played on World Baseball Classic teams. He’s an absolutely wonderful human being and a class act,” said Hamilton. “And you would have to look long and hard to find a high school talent or a talent period that has the overall gifts and talents that he had to play the game of baseball.”

And Loewen may not be done with those “gifts and talents.”

He feels there might be one last tournament in him. He is going to train to try to play for Canada in the World Baseball Classic in March.

The big left-hander is 38 and will turn 39 in April.

He hasn’t thrown a pitch or swung a bat in a game for Canada since 2019.

The odds are stacked against him.

But given his track record, no one should bet against Adam Loewen.

6 thoughts on “Loewen attempting comeback to play in World Baseball Classic, don’t bet against him

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  1. A great writeup Kevin about Adam. Thanks for doing this. Adam had such an up and down career, but so great to read he’s working on a comeback

    1. cooperstownersincanada – Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.
      cooperstownersincanada says:

      Thanks for your kind words and support, Scott.

    1. cooperstownersincanada – Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.
      cooperstownersincanada says:

      Thank you for reading my article and for your support.

  2. It would be great to see Loewen back playing for Canada. He certainly has battled! Good article Kevin–lots of research had to be done for this!

    1. cooperstownersincanada – Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.
      cooperstownersincanada says:

      Thank you very much. I appreciate your support and kind words. Yes, it would be a great story to see him pitch again for Canada.

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