A familiar voice consults with Trey Hillman in the Kansas City Royals dugout. Former UT Arlington infielder Dave Owen is the bench coach.
Owen was Hillman's bench coach with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan last year. The duties of bench coaches-a relatively new position in baseball-vary depending on the manager. Generally, they act as an assistant manager and offer situational advice during games.
The Royals coaching job is Owen's first in the big leagues, but he's no stranger to Major League Baseball. He played shortstop with the Chicago Cubs from 1983-85 and saw action with Kansas City in 1988.
"I hope it showed other kids that you could go to The University of Texas at Arlington and play in the big leagues, he said.
He played shortstop at UT Arlington from 1977-79 before the Cubs drafted him in the 10th round. His 40 stolen bases in 1978 rank second in school history.
"Looking back, I can't say enough about [UT Arlington] coach [Butch] McBroom," said Owen, the first of seven Mavericks to reach the majors. "Thankfully, he had the guts to give a little skinny kid from Cleburne, Texas, a chance to play college baseball."
While with the Cubs organization, Owen married his high school sweetheart, Yasmin, on Sept. 5, 1981. On the same date two years later, the Cubs called him up.
"Yasmin knew before I did," Owen recalled. "She was sitting in the stands at our final game in Des Moines, and one of the front-office people came down and told her I was going to Chicago. What a thrill it was. Needless to say, it was a great anniversary."
Owen spent the last month of the 1983 season with the Cubs and played there the next two years. "The chance to play at Wrigley Field, to experience the fans in Chicago and to play on a championship club in 1984 will always be fond memories."
He was traded to San Francisco after the 1985 season and for the next few years bounced around the minor leagues. After a brief call-up to Kansas City in 1988 followed by another year in the minors, his playing days were over.
He became a scout for the Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies and served as an infield coordinator for the Phillies' minor league teams from 2004-06. Last year, Hillman asked Owen to join him in Japan.
"What a wonderful time I had in Japan," Owen said. "The work ethic of the players, the way they care about each other, made it a joy to be around them."
It was only natural that Owen would join Hillman in Kansas City.
"The chance to work with Trey again is awesome," he said. "He's a winner."
Owen and his wife make Cleburne their off-season home. They have two daughters-Haley, an emergency medical technician in Dallas, and Courtney, an elementary-school teacher in Cleburne.
"Baseball has always been a part of my life," he said. "I would never have been able to do this without the love and support of my wife, Yasmin. She has always been there, packing, traveling and moving with the kids by herself-and on top of all that, still taking care of me.
"We're looking forward to the next chapter in our lives in Kansas City."
— Jim Patterson
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