Love of baseball keeps Owings in the game

Veteran took an independent league detour to get back

Love of baseball keeps Owings in the game

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Micah Owings has stayed in luxury team hotel rooms on the glamorous road trips of the Major Leagues, but that doesn't mean he still doesn't love a plush basement suite all to himself.

That's the situation he found himself in last summer, when his baseball journey took him to the York (Pa.) Revolution, an independent ieague team, and to the home of Jim and Tracy Board, a local couple that decided to be a host family for the season.

Owings, who gained recognition as a pitcher and occasional hitter for three different teams over the course of six seasons in the Majors and is attempting a comeback as a Mariners non-roster invitee, didn't know what to expect when he decided to take his now-healthy right arm to the unaffiliated, nether regions of pro ball.

What he did know is that he wanted to give the Majors another try. The last pitch he threw in a big league uniform came with the Padres on April 25, 2012. Almost five years later, he's back in Spring Training, giving it his all. So far this spring, he has a 4.15 ERA in four outings.

"I love the game, and I love to compete," Owings said. "That's why I was willing to go to York. I wasn't doing it for financial reasons, obviously. Just anything but to go out and compete. It's why I've always enjoyed playing the game."

Jim and Nancy Board's son, Jimmy, now 35, played baseball at Marist College in the early 2000s, so the sport has been in the family's blood for a long time. A bridge friend told Nancy about the host family program, and with 4,200 square feet in the house plus the spacious basement, the Boards figured they might enjoy the company.

Not only did they get Owings, but they got his Revolution teammate, shortstop and former Mariner Josh Wilson, plus visiting friends and family.

Being a host family meant free tickets and parking at the games, too, so soon enough they were rooting on Owings and Wilson and feeling a little bit like they were going through the whole experience with their son all over again.

"Micah sort of became a little member of the family," Nancy said via phone. "We would talk about baseball and life a lot. And to watch his faith and perseverance and love for the game, it was inspiring. He had some discouraging times and he had some good times, and it was just wonderful having him around."

Nancy described Owings as "charming, respectful and tidy." She added that the family Yorkshire terrier, Libby, who is "as big as Micah's head," took a special shine to the 6-foot-5 pitcher.

And so, eventually, did the Mariners, after Owings went 7-6 with a 4.30 ERA for York and topped 100 innings. He played on a good team, with former Dodgers and Rays infielder Joel Guzman and former Rockies closer Manny Corpas also on the roster.

And he got a taste of the purity of baseball.

"The competition for me was like Triple-A level," Owings said. "And I had a sweet set-up with some wonderful people. I had a blast."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.