When Toronto Blue Jays rookie Chris Rowley made his debut on Saturday he became the first graduate of the United States Military Academy to pitch in MLB.
He’s also the first Army product in nearly a century to set foot on a big-league field for an official game as he’s just the second MLB player ever overall to come from West Point.
What he doesn’t have right now? Any type of in-pack baseball card (or even a Topps Now card), meaning his only options for military-minded collectors or Blue Jays fans are just a few team-issue minor league cards.
The 26-year-old picked up the win on Saturday, allowing one run in five-plus innings while striking out three and walking one. He’s off the cardboard radar despite a 20-9 record with a 2.71 ERA and 215 strikeouts in 262 minor-league innings over three seasons. He made his MiLB debut back in 2013 but didn’t pitch again until last year. The gap in his play was from military service — two summers ago he found himself in Bulgaria and Romania.
“It still feels pretty surreal,” Rowley told The Associated Press. “I’m slowly processing it. I’m still in that initial surge. My phone is getting blown up, I have all these interviews. Twenty-four hours ago, relatively nobody knew my name. Now all of a sudden this has blown up. I’m trying to handle the surreal aspect of it.”
The last West Point product to hit the majors was Walt French, who played for the Philadelphia A’s for six seasons. His career stats include a .303 average, two home runs and 109 RBI in 397 career games. He appears on a dozen cards with his Rookie Card coming in the 1933 Goudey set, four years after his final game.
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