It was a special afternoon yesterday in the life of United States Army veteran Chris Rowley, as he won his Major League debut for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Rowley, 27, defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in his team’s 7-2 home victory, allowing one earned run on five hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out three and walked one.
Unsurprisingly, Rowley left the game to a standing ovation.
When asked in a post-game interview what moment would stick out the most from his debut, Rowley said: “Probably the standing ovation. That was really, really cool. And obviously having my family here to share it with me.”
Rowley is a first lieutenant assigned to Individual Ready Reserve. He graduated in 2013 from the United States Military Academy—or West Point—and is the first graduate of the academy to reach the majors.
ESPN quoted Rowley today in an article: “It still feels pretty surreal. 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.”
According to USA Today, Rowley pitched nine games in 2013 for Toronto’s Rookie League affiliate before starting his service with the US Army. He missed the 2014 and 2015 seasons due to active duty, and in January 2016, received an exemption for the remainder of his service.
Pitching for single-A in 2016, Rowley was 10-3 with a 3.49 ERA in 31 games (14 starts). He started this year in double-A, posting a 1.73 ERA in 52 innings before getting the call to triple-A where he had a 2.82 ERA in 54 1/3 innings.