Even with such impressive numbers, most of the big schools except State strayed away from Brian. This is where the first part of adversity comes in, his size. Owens is only 5-10 and 189 pounds. That is a little short compared to most pitchers, and Brian knew it. He said, "It seemed like all of the bigger schools kept their distance from me because of my size. I don't have the right build for what they were looking for in Division 1. So I ended up signing with Delta State."
Owens ended up spending only one year at the college, but that year was filled with some tough times. While he was there, Owens underwent surgery on his elbow. He was uncertain about his future in baseball at that point, but knew he had to work to get back in shape. About his therapy he said, "I went to all my rehab and it just seemed like it was never going to get any better. There were a lot of ups and downs and I never really saw any improvement in my arm. I came up here (MSU) the following fall but I wasn't ready to throw. I left here and went back home to Hinds Community College."
It was that trip to HCC that finally began to turn things around for Owens. His arm began to improve, and he was starting to throw like his old self. About the turnaround he said, "Finally everything started working out. It felt so much better; it was like a new arm. I decided to give it another shot up here."
Once again there was only one thing standing in the way, his size. But by this time, Brian was determined not to let that stop him. He said, "I believed in myself. People always told me in high school that I would never make it this far, but that motivates me. People start talking about what I cannot do, and that is like fuel the fire to go out and accomplish the goals that I have set."
Owens is now one of only four walk-ons on the roster for the Bulldogs. His persistence has finally paid off, but he said it has not quite sunk in yet what it means to take the field at Dudy-Noble. He talked about being on the team, "It is just now sinking in that we have started playing. It's beginning to become a reality, but it is still like I am in that dream world. You don't realize whom you are playing for and the team like a big Division 1 powerhouse such as Mississippi State. All these guys have accepted me well and that is a good feeling when you come into a big school like this. Nobody looks down on you, they just get behind you 100 percent."
One of the things Owens has had to adjust to is the fan support. He said it is a lot different than in community college. "When I came from Hinds we really didn't have huge crowds. If you got 200 or 300 people there it was a big crowd. You come here and you have five or six thousand people screaming every time something big happens. It is really amazing. You don't really think of a college team having this much support. All these other teams we've been playing don't have the support like this. It's really an honor to have all these people come and watch us. You can't really describe how it feels when you are out there pitching in front of all these people, it is really a neat feeling."
Even after all that Brian has been through, he realizes that nothing at this point is going to come easy, and that if he wants to achieve his goals, he still has to work hard for them. He said, "When I made the team it took a lot of pressure off of me, but I still had to accomplish the goals that I set. The up and down ride has prepared me, but it is a totally different world now. There is always going to be some pressure on you when you have to go out and throw against these big teams. You still have to go out there and do your stuff and play everyday."
Brian Owens is one of the really good success stories of this year's team. It took a lot of determination to stick with what he loved to do long enough to reach his goal of playing for the Bulldogs. Now that he is here, he just wants to pitch the best he can when he gets the chance and maybe make the traveling team roster. He definitely has what it takes to meet his goals, and after his whole life of being told that he cannot do it, it is time that someone realizes he can.
Hank Allen is a free-lance correspondent for Gene's Page. Hank is a student at Mississippi State University. He is also a reporter for the student newspaper, The Reflector. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.