- The Washington Times - Monday, June 30, 2003

In a professional debut, it’s the little things that are different, the things that aren’t practiced in the bullpen or the early mornings of extended spring training.

So in Adam Loewen’s first start for the Orioles’ organization, it wasn’t his pitching that looked shaky. It was his introduction.

In the promotion-crazed minor leagues, nervous little leaguers often accompany home team players on the field during pregame introductions. But as Loewen took the field for the Class A Aberdeen IronBirds on Sunday, he looked about as anxious as the youngster trying to keep pace with him.

With the rest of his teammates already in the field, Loewen’s name was announced, and his assigned little leaguer took a couple steps toward the mound before realizing he was going solo. After a few uneasy seconds, Loewen emerged from the dugout, looked down at his relieved pal and headed to the center of the diamond.

Once the anthem was complete, Loewen’s little shadow stared up at him for instructions: a high-five, maybe a pat on the back? The 6-foot-6 left-hander gave him a shrug as if to say “I’ve never done this before either, kid,” then turned and took the hill for the first time as a professional.

“I really wasn’t paying much attention to what was going on,” Loewen said of his first minutes on the field. “It’s all kind of a blur now. I was nervous and thinking about how badly I wanted to pitch well.”

Finally on the rubber, the Orioles’ 2002 first-round pick (No.4 overall) wasn’t completely rid of his nerves until he hit the Staten Island Yankees’ leadoff man with a fastball on his fourth pitch. In two innings of work, that was the most contact any of the Yankees’ batters made.

The Surrey, British Columbia, native threw just 32 pitches and struck out five primarily using a fastball that topped out at 95 mph and a few curveballs that dropped in around 75. All five batters struck out swinging, and the only ball hit fair was a tapper down the first-base line.

“After the first batter I realized I had to settle down and just focus on my pitching,” Loewen said. “I knew that if I had a bad outing it was just one day, and people wouldn’t look too closely at it.”

It also was a day that came within 10 minutes of never happening. After a year of negotiating and with the May26 deadline to sign players from the 2002 draft only minutes away, the Orioles offered him a spot on their 40-man roster to sweeten their five-year, $4.02million contract offer. With the assurance that he would be in the big leagues by 2007 at the latest, Loewen agreed to terms and instantly became the organization’s crown jewel.

As a member of the 40-man roster with no major league experience, he can be optioned to the minors four times before facing waivers. Come 2007 he will be out of options and either will be in Baltimore or with a different major league club. IronBirds manager Joe Almaraz doesn’t think it will take quite that long.

“This kid is a big leaguer,” he said. “He’s got a free and easy delivery that is so deceptive for hitters because they don’t expect the ball to be on them so quickly.”

The Orioles are making sure Loewen’s progression this summer is slow because he has thrown only 52⅓ competitive innings in the past year. Those innings came with Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla., this spring when he racked up a 6-0 record and 2.07 ERA in the regular season while also playing in every game, primarily as the designated hitter.

Loewen had a 40-pitch limit in his first start with the IronBirds, and that number will rise by about 15 pitches each start, Almaraz said. But he added that Sunday was an important day for him even though he only threw two innings.

“Whether a guy’s a career minor leaguer, an All-Star, a Hall of Famer or plays in a World Series, they will always remember that first day,” he said. “This was an outing that will live with him forever.”

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