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Baseball: South alum Chris Rowley set to make MLB debut
South Forsyth alum Chris Rowley
Chris Rowley, a former South Forsyth standout, delivers a pitch for the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. (by Joe Territo/Rochester Red Wings) - photo by For the FCN

It turns out that the second time was a charm for Chris Rowley.

The South Forsyth alum was in Houston last weekend, having followed the Toronto Blue Jays down for their series against the Houston Astros. Rowley, a right-handed pitcher, was still with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons at that point, but there was a chance the Blue Jays would need him for a spot start, so the big league club had him down with them just in case.

It didn't happen. Rowley wasn't activated and couldn't be with the team or be around the stadium. Rowley's parents had come down to Texas in the event that he would start, so he just hung out with them around Houston. He was back with the Bisons on Monday, throwing five innings in long relief, but with the Blue Jays' pitching rotation suffering the loss of Francisco Liriano to a trade and Aaron Sanchez to injury, Rowley knew there was a decent chance he'd get the call later in the week. 

It came on Thursday night. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons announced after the team's win over the Yankees that Rowley would start on Saturday, and Rowley found out around the same time. He soon made the trip from Toledo, Ohio to Toronto, where he's set to get the ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday afternoon and become the first Forsyth County alum to debut in the major leagues since the 1990s.

"I'd been told all week to be prepared for that, so I wasn't really surprised," Rowley said on Friday afternoon. "I was excited for the opportunity and still am, so I guess yeah, 'excited' is the best word to describe it."

Rowley has taken an unconventional path to this point. He had an illustrious career at South, helping to lead the War Eagles to the state finals against Pope in 2009. He wasn't a major pro prospect, though, and headed to play at Army-West Point. Rowley kept improving with the Black Knights, earning All-American honors as a junior. His impending military commitment swayed teams away from drafting him, but the Blue Jays gave Rowley a free agent deal and let him pitch in the Gulf Coast League before he reported for active duty. 

Rowley spend two years in Army, deploying to Bulgaria as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, before returning to pro baseball in 2016. He recorded a 3.49 ERA and 10 wins with the High-A Dunedin Blue Jays that year, and this year Rowley has been even better, putting up a 2.29 ERA between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo and holding hitters to a .216 batting average in 106 1/3 innings. He's a sinkerballer with a low-90s fastball and a changeup and slider that he mixes in liberally.

The nerves haven't come quite yet for Rowley, though he's sure that they will on the day of the game. He'll follow his throwing program, scout out the Pirates' lineup and then pitch, just like he did at any other level.

"It's the same game, and I can't treat it any other way," Rowley said. "Otherwise, I'll blow it out of proportion and then the results won't be good."