Rowand a passionate fan of the game
Giants outfielder couldn't get enough baseball as a kid
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The first thing you need to know about Aaron Rowand is that he still loves baseball like a little boy.Rowand's the sort of person who looks at a blue sky and insists there should be a ballgame going on under it. Changing into his uniform is a privilege, not a routine. He still remembers receiving his first professional paycheck -- for $322, after his opening two weeks with the Chicago White Sox Hickory outpost in the South Atlantic League. "It was like the coolest day of my life, the first time you got paid to play baseball," Rowand said Saturday before the Giants' 14-8 split-squad victory over the Seattle Mariners. Rowand, 30, is that rare player who's also a fan. His enthusiasm already has become familiar around the Giants, who signed him to a five-year, $60 million contract last December. Recently, he interrupted a casual discussion of the Cleveland Indians' record home sellout streak by blurting "455" -- the exact number accumulated at Jacobs Field from 1995-2001. When Willie Mays arrived for his annual Spring Training visit, Rowand waited a week before introducing himself to the Giant of all Giants. While rookies lined up for the Hall of Famer's autograph, Rowand, a seven-year veteran, was thrilled just to occupy the same clubhouse as Mays. "I didn't want to bother him, you know?" Rowand said. Hungry for more baseball after one of his summers in the Cape Cod League -- he played for Brewster in 1996 and '97 -- Rowand and a brother-in-law, Craig Lent, stopped at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., on a cross-country drive home. Pressed for time but intending to see as much as possible, Rowand tore himself away from relics such as Joe DiMaggio's landmark $100,000 contract and Eddie Gaedel's pint-sized jersey. "I got to spend only one day there," he lamented. Advised that true aficionados allot at least two days to pore over the museum's artifacts, Rowand said, "You need three. I would probably need four. ... It's almost like mythology until you get to see it in person." Understanding Rowand's passion requires rewinding to his youth in Glendora, Calif. Rowand's father, Bob, nurtured his appreciation for the game without forcing it on him. "I was available," Bob Rowand said. "He pushed himself." Bob Rowand, who maintained his ardor for the game despite not playing organized baseball beyond his freshman year in high school, described young Aaron's life as being "nonstop baseball."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.