Jon Mark Owings Interview

One of the most astute draft picks by the Braves last year was in the 17th round when they selected Georgia high school star Jon Mark Owings. The Gainesville High School star hit .515 with 17 home runs last year, but slipped in the draft when he was considered a tough sign due to his college commitment to Clemson. The Braves drafted him anyway to continue the tradition of going after top talent from their own backyard. After he was signed, Owings had an interesting (and dangerous) first season.

SHANKS: First off, tell me how you felt when you got drafted by the Braves?

OWINGS: I thought it was a big honor, especially being a hometown guy. If it had been another team (drafting me), I probably wouldn't have gone (pro). But it meant a lot to me to be drafted by my hometown team.

SHANKS: Going into the draft, what were you being told by the scouts?

OWINGS: I learned a lot. Anywhere from sixth to twelfth round was what I was being told. The Braves wanted to take me in the fifth round if I had committed to go. I didn't really know if I wanted to sign or if I wanted to go to Clemson or JUCO.

SHANKS: So you knew the Braves had interest in you?

OWINGS: Yes sir. Roy Clark (Braves' Scouting Director) had actually been to several of our games. I had been talking with them since my junior year. They had been coming to watch me since my junior year.

SHANKS: Had you told other teams that if you were drafted that late you'd just go to college?

OWINGS: I think a lot of teams thought I was just committed to go to college, kind of like how my brother (Micah) did. I think a lot of scouts thought I was just going to school.

SHANKS: Did Micah's history factor into their thoughts about that?

OWINGS: I think it had a little bit to do with it. Maybe just a little bit.

SHANKS: So when the call came in the 17th round, how did you feel?

OWINGS: I was just happy to get drafted. It didn't matter where I was drafted, as long as I can get out there and play.

SHANKS: And you didn't sign until into the summer, right?

OWINGS: Yes sir, it did. I waited until the last day.

SHANKS: So if any other team had called that day in the 17th round, you'd be at Clemson right now?

OWINGS: Yes sir.

SHANKS: How many games had you played in before the injury?

OWINGS: It took me a while to get into the lineup since I got there a little late. I ended up playing in most of the games. I had over 100 at bats. I was starting out in right field everyday.

SHANKS: How do you think you did?

OWINGS: I started out slow and then I was hitting over .300 with two weeks left in the season and then I just hit a wall and slumped. I ended up going 5 for the last 50 or something like that.

SHANKS: How was the adjustment to the wooden bat?

OWINGS: I think it's more of a mental adjustment than just adjusting to wood. I've been hitting with wood for a long time, so I think it's more of a mental adjustment to just get used to it again.

SHANKS: Ok, so tell me about the injury?

OWINGS: It was the first inning and there was one out. The wind was blowing real bad that day. They hit a foul ball to right field. I'm the type of player that when I see a ball, I'm going to go after it. There's no holding back. That's just how I play the game. So I ran after it. I saw the fence from the distance, but the wind kept blowing the ball and I kind of took my eye off the fence. I just went right after the ball, and as soon as I did the fence got me. I had the ball in my hand until I hit the fence and then it knocked it out on impact. It hit me right in my stomach.

SHANKS: So you were knocked out?

OWINGS: I was out. I was conscience. I think it knocked me out for about three seconds. Then I woke up and everybody was standing there looking at me. I walked off the field and went into the training room. I was joking around with the coach on my way out telling him I wanted to hit one more time before I left. But he told me I better go to the training room and get looked at by the trainer, Ricky Alcantara. Ricky took one look at me and knew we needed to go to the hospital. Then after I had been at the hospital for about ten minutes I passed out again.

SHANKS: How did he know you needed to go to the hospital?

OWINGS: Yea I was real pale and couldn't breathe. It was pretty serious. They said I was close to losing my life. I have a lot to owe to him (Alcantara). He was on the ball that day.

SHANKS: So were you conscience on the drive to the hospital?

OWINGS: Yes sir. I talked to Ricky the whole way there. It knocked me out when I hit the fence and then I was fine after that, but I couldn't breathe. I thought I had a broken rib or something. But I talked the whole way there.

SHANKS: Then when did you pass out again?

OWINGS: I passed out when the nurse was trying to make me sit up and get my pressure. She looked at me, and I just passed out.

SHANKS: So did they take you right to surgery?

OWINGS: Once I passed out I think they knew something was wrong. They went in and looked at me and saw that my spleen was blown up and I had lost 40% of my blood in my stomach. I was bleeding internally pretty bad.

SHANKS: And they had to take your spleen out?

OWINGS: It was already ruptured into little bitty pieces. There was no spleen there.

SHANKS: So what did they do in the surgery?

OWINGS: They took out all my organs and cleaned them out and then put them back in. They actually took all my blood out, cleaned it, and put it back in and sowed me up.

SHANKS: You got a lube job, didn't you?

OWINGS: I did. I woke up that night and had a catheter, a nose tube, and a breather, along with an IV. I didn't know what had happened.

SHANKS: Did your parents get down there?

OWINGS: Actually my sister was flying in that night to drive me home since that was the end of the season. When I was going to the hospital I told Ricky to make sure someone picked up my sister at the airport that night. So Ricky told my sister and she called my mom and my parents got there that next morning. They were all there. My brother came in and about passed out when he saw me. He said it wasn't a very good sight. I think Micah was just more scared than anything when he saw those tubes.

SHANKS: So that was the last game of the season?

OWINGS: There was that game and then another game the next day and then we were finished.

SHANKS: So how long were you in the hospital?

OWINGS: I think I was in there three days. There was a hurricane coming, so they let me go ahead and take off.

SHANKS: Did there come a time where you were scared?

OWINGS: Not really. I knew it was in God's hands. Things happen for a reason. I knew I was going to be fine.

SHANKS: What did they tell you when you left as far as recovery and what you had to do to get better?

OWINGS: He said to take six to eight weeks off before doing anything. I couldn't lift anything heavier than a milk jug. He said I would be fine as long as I get my shots. That's all I had to do. I don't have to take any medicine. It actually took me eleven weeks before I started hitting again. So I've been working out for a couple of months now. It's still tough to get back into shape. It's been a long process.

SHANKS: How much weight did you lose?

OWINGS: I weighed in that day at 193. I left the hospital at 171. I'm back up to 195 now. It was tough.

SHANKS: So you just had to do nothing during the time off?

OWINGS: I did absolutely nothing.

SHANKS: Was that hard to just sit around.

OWINGS: Yea it was. I guess it was probably a good thing. My mom was watching me like a hawk. I couldn't do anything. I'm the type that can't sit still. I always want to be doing something. It was real tough to just sit around and watch TV.

SHANKS: So were you hesitant when you started hitting again?

OWINGS: It hurt. My abs were sore because they had to cut right through my muscles of my stomach. They were just so weak. It took me a while to build my abs back up. But now, I'm fine. I've been throwing all right. It's taken a long time to get all my muscles back in shape and stuff.

SHANKS: How is your back doing?

OWINGS: My back is doing ok. It's crazy. They saw something on a x-ray and my sister actually prayed over me before I went in and got my cat scan and MRI. The next day they didn't see anything on either of them.

SHANKS: Was your back hurting really bad?

OWINGS: It hurt real bad. Every once in a while it'll hurt when I swing, but it's not as bad as it was. I think it's just from being back and getting in shape and stuff. They think it might have just been muscle.

SHANKS: I imagine a lot of what you lost was body mass.

OWINGS: Yes sir.

SHANKS: What does it mean to you to have a brother who is a great college player?

OWINGS: I've always looked up to Micah. He's kind of my leader. Whenever I need something, I've always called him. I don't think there's anyone that can do what he does. (Micah is a hitter and pitcher at Tulane) and do both things as well as he does both of them. He's my leader, my hero.

SHANKS: Does he like to hit more than pitch? What's his preference?

OWINGS: He doesn't have one. He loves to do both. He's just good at both of them. He wants to keep doing both, but if a team drafts him (this June) I guess he'll have to do what they tell him to do. But he likes doing both of them.

SHANKS: Have you been cleared completely to go all out?

OWINGS: Yes sir.

SHANKS: Do you think the Braves will want to be careful with you?

OWINGS: When I get on the field, I'm going to show them that I'm fine. I think I've got some things to prove just to show them that I am all right. I'm ready to do that. I think they'll be a little hesitant in the beginning, but once they see that I'm fine everything should be all right.

SHANKS: What is your goal for this year? Rome?

OWINGS: That's my goal. If it happens, it happens. I'm going to do all I can to get ready. It's out of my hands.

SHANKS: Does the thought of playing close to home in Rome excite you?

OWINGS: That's the one reason I want to be there – not only being in Single-A but having all my friends, my coaches, and everybody I played with will be able to come and see me play. I think that'll be great.

SHANKS: Describe your game for me. What type of player are you?

OWINGS: I think I've got good pop on the bat. Sometimes I get myself out by being disciplined enough and not swinging at good pitches. I'm real aggressive at the plate. Once a pitcher gives me something I'm going to drive, I'm going to get it. You'll never see me slack off much. I'm always going to bust my butt. I've always been taught to do that. I think that goes a long way, just being able to hustle.

SHANKS: What do you know you need to work on this season?

OWINGS: Plate discipline and getting adjusted more to the outfield. I played the infield my whole life before they moved me out there. I played a little bit of outfield in summer ball, but not a lot. They moved me to the outfield right when I got there, so that's a big adjustment going from the infield in four years of high school to the outfield.

SHANKS: Where did you play in high school?

OWINGS: I played short. I played second base my freshmen and sophomore year, and then they played moved me to short for my junior and senior year.

SHANKS: So do you like the outfield?

OWINGS: As long as I am in the lineup, I could care less where they play me. I just want to hit.

SHANKS: Is it fun now to dream about where you might be in two or three years?

OWINGS: That's my goal. I just want to make it. I really don't care how I make it as long as I am up there. I just want to make it to the bigs. My brother and I have always wanted to make it, but another dream of ours has always been to play together again. We played together in high school, and that was probably the most fun I've ever had. We were pretty much unbeatable in high school when we were together.

SHANKS: Well maybe the Braves will draft him this year.

OWINGS: I'm hoping they will. My goal is to be in Rome and hopefully he'll throw a couple of innings in Danville and join me in Rome. That would be a dream.

Bill Shanks's new book, "Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team," will be out before Opening Day. Bill can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com

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