The first time I met Larry Bowen was in a press box in Mumford, Texas.
If you’ve never heard of Mumford, it’s okay; I doubt many would be able to point it out on a map. It’s a small town just west of College Station that you wouldn’t even know you passed through if it weren’t for the multi-million dollar high school baseball and softball fields built near the high school along Highway 50.
That’s where, as a rookie reporter in 2011, I met Larry while standing outside the press box before a Class 4A regional semifinal baseball game between the Brenham Cubs and Magnolia Bulldogs. I was only seven months into my first professional writing job as a sports reporter for the Brenham Banner-Press and my then-sports editor was introducing me to this man who had three decades of sports reporting experience of all levels—Little League to college—and one whom I’d be sharing the press box with.
God I was nervous.
I was afraid to speak, too fearful that I would sound stupid or ask a dumb question and this professional sports writer would look at me and think, “They hired this dumbass?” And oh god, how was I going to cover up my stat book so he couldn’t see the ridiculous way I kept stats throughout the game. And oh god, what if he misses something and I give him the wrong stats? And heaven forbid if our stats don’t match up at the end of the game.
So I grabbed my chair in the two-man press box, opened my stat book and sat there quietly, hoping the time would pass quickly so I could get home and back in my comfort zone.
It turns out all my fears were for naught.
Larry struck up a conversation throughout the game, asking me about my past and how I ended up in Brenham. We talked about his career and his passion for covering sports. By the third inning, he calmed all my pre-game fears.
During one point in the game, I lost track of a run down between first and second base after the ball traveled between the first and second baseman and shortstop so many times I couldn’t turn my head fast enough to keep track. So I asked Larry, and he didn’t miss a beat listing off the string of players who passed off the ball before tagging the runner out.
I was floored. Who was this man?
Larry and I parted ways after the game to run off to our postgame interviews. Days later, I read his game story and compared it to mine and was once again floored at how he constructed his piece and caught bits of the game I either completely missed or wrote off all together. He had such a flow and beautiful weave with his words. It was then I began reading every Larry Bowen piece published.
I wouldn’t see Larry for nearly a year after that baseball game. It wasn’t until a girl’s playoff basketball game in Hearne, Texas, not terribly far from Mumford, that I saw him in the stands as the teams warmed up. I hesitantly approached him, unsure if he’d remember a cub reporter from the press box almost a year prior. Sure enough, he gave me a big Larry Bowen hello and said he’d enjoyed my stories.
Again, I was floored. This man with 30-plus years’ experienced read my stuff … liked my stuff?!? I didn’t have the heart to tell him I used him as an inspiration to improve my writing from my rookie slop I had been previously churning out.
After that game I felt another surge of anxiety when Larry asked to join my postgame interview with the Brenham girls basketball coach. Typically I did interviews one-on-one, but Larry approached and asked if he could join. I was nervous because … oh god, what if I ask the coach something stupid? And oh god, what if Larry thinks my questions are stupid? And oh god, Larry is going to hear me stumble and mumble my way through my questions.
Once again, Larry was the ultimate professional and let me drive the interview and chimed in here and there with questions I missed—and with parts of the game I had once again written off. Much like our last encounter, I read Larry’s story days after the game and was floored by the tale he told.
I still had so much to learn.
Larry and I met numerous times the following year. Every time our paths crossed, I couldn’t help but smile and go give him a big hello.
When I resigned from my post as the sports editor of the Banner-Press in 2013, it wasn’t 30 minutes after I made the announcement that Larry was calling me. We must have talked for 15 minutes about sports and the industry. He told me how much he enjoyed working together. I couldn’t agree more.
Now it’s Larry who’s stepping away from the field lights after a 30-plus year career as one of the finest sports writers in the business—I say that with no hyperbole. Larry has a true gift in how he can craft a game story: peppering it with the right amount of stats and numbers and weave it with what he saw on the field into a beautiful piece of work, a talent that is unfortunately few and far between these days.
Larry, I wish you the best in your future endeavors, my friend.
May we one day meet again.