The proving ground for Jace Bowman turned out to be none other than the Kansas Association of Baseball Coaches All-Star game on June 6 at Kansas State University’s Tointon Family Stadium in Manhattan.
Bowman, a product of Great Bend High School, was a first-team Class 5A all-state second baseman this past spring, thus earning himself a spot on the roster for the annual game featuring the state’s top players.
“When you get good players around you, the best players around you from the state, the thing that I was happy to see was that he stepped up and became one of those guys,” Barton Community College head baseball coach Mike Warren said of Bowman, who finished 2-for-4 at the plate in the game. “That’s what we were waiting for.
“We were waiting to see if, No. 1, he has basketball out of his mind, and he does. It’s going to be amazing with the progress he’s going to make when he starts doing this for nine months, and he’s not playing three sports.”
Bowman, a three-sport standout at Great Bend, signed a letter of intent Thursday morning to play baseball for the Cougars.
“It’s a good fit,” Bowman said after his signing ceremony inside the clubhouse at Lawson-Biggs Field. “Hopefully, I will get a chance to play and get better in the next two years and see what I can do after that.
“I’m confident that this is the right decision and this is what is best for me. I know this is a good program, and that I’m going to get better and definitely help Barton win some baseball games.”
Bowman is the guy who suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee last September during practice in football season, just a few days after catching a game-winning touchdown pass with 1:08 left in the fourth quarter during a 14-7 home triumph over Western Athletic Conference rival Garden City at Memorial Stadium.
Bowman is the guy who came back in less than four months after his knee surgery to lead the GBHS basketball team in scoring (13.9 points-per-game average) — a 6-foot-3 long-range shooter (30 for 75 on 3-pointers for 40 percent) who established himself as a first-team All-WAC selection.
Bowman is the guy who capped his prep career by hitting a team-leading .480 for the Panthers baseball team. He also led the team in home runs (2), runs batted in (22), hits (36), singles (24) and at-bats (75).
“I’m really excited to have him and I’m looking forward to the contributions he will make to our program over the next two years,” Warren said. “We need a second baseman. We need a guy that can hold that down and we’ve always been fortunate to have good second basemen. He’s going to be one of those guys that’s going to carry on that tradition.
“He’s going to be versatile because he’s obviously very athletic. He played football, basketball and baseball and was athletic in all of them, so he’s a guy that we also could move to third or first base. It would be great if we could have him as our everyday second baseman.”
Jace is a legacy to the Barton athletic family. After all, Lawson-Biggs Field is named after Jimmy Lawson and Danny Biggs, major contributors to Barton.
Jace’s mother, Kelly, is the daughter of the late Danny Biggs. Moreover, Warren’s assistant, Brent Biggs, is Jace’s cousin, and Jace’s father, Rob, played basketball for Barton from 1976-78.
“Brent and I have been fairly close throughout high school and he’s definitely helped me,” Jace said of his cousin. “Whenever I’ve needed advice, I’ve called or texted him.
“Last summer, he helped me and threw batting practice to me a couple times. Whenever I’ve needed help or advice, he’s helped me out.”
Recruited by Barton for both basketball and baseball, Jace chose the latter.
“I think there has been a concern,” Warren said. “I know there was with him. I know there has been a lot of heartache with the decision about whether he wanted to play basketball or baseball or whether he wanted to try to do both. That was a decision we wanted him to make on his own, and we didn’t want to sway him one way or another.”
Jace said his biggest concern is adjusting to a new level, where players are bigger, stronger and faster than in high school.
“The speed of the game and the mental aspect,” he said. “Hopefully, I will adjust well to another level and a new speed.”
Warren says the lanky right-handed hitter is capacitated enough mentally and physically to handle the rigors of playing baseball in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference Western Division and NJCAA Division I.
“This game is tough enough as it is, baseball, and we wanted to make sure that there weren’t any regrets on his part,” Warren said. “It’s a game of failure and nothing in baseball is really easy. There are going to be struggles and I wanted to make sure that when those struggles happen, he’s mentally ready to do that and to take those on and really fight through those and not second-guess himself and say, well, maybe I wish I would have played basketball.
“I’m thoroughly convinced that Jace is at that point right now where he is ready to give it his best shot and all of his attention and all of his passion to the game of baseball.”