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FORT SCOTT — One year after helping lead his Fort Scott High School baseball team to a third-place finish at the Class 4A State Tournament in Salina, Brody Bowles had even higher expectations for his squad heading into the 2020 spring season.

Bowles was coming off an all-state performance at third base with more big things to come. Yet those dreams were cut short as his senior campaign ended before it even got started.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic put an abrupt halt to spring sports in the state of Kansas with the cancellation of the season. Now instead of focusing on a possible state championship with the Tigers, Bowles is left wondering what could have been while also focusing on a future at the collegiate level.

“After seeing what it took to win the state title last year, I was pumped for the team we had this year,” said Bowles, who was preparing for his fourth year in the Tiger baseball program. “When I was told the news, I honestly could not believe it. I was totally caught off guard. My junior year, I was pretty focused on being recruited and getting seen by coaches. Also with the team we had last year so stacked and finishing third at state, I had full intentions on coming back and winning that state title. With being signed and having nothing to worry about, I could just go play and go for the title.”

Although Bowles spent time on the Fort Scott football team, including as the starting quarterback this past fall, his main focus over the years has been baseball. In fact, he said his passion for the sport started at a young age.

“I’ve always considered baseball to be my sport,” Bowles said. “It came the most natural, and my father had a bat and ball in my hand for as long as I can remember. The countless hours spent at the ball fields at tournaments and creating the best friendships I could have hoped for. I grew up playing for two guys by the name of Brandon Hathaway and Shane White, two guys that know the game inside and out, and I even grew up practicing in the middle of nowhere in a field with an XYZ infield and no fences. The game has shown me the true meaning of adversity and how fast good things can go bad and how bad things can go good.”

Things appeared to be peaking for Bowles heading into his senior campaign. During the fall, he signed to continue his baseball playing career at Neosho County Community College. He was coming off a season in which he hit .426 at the plate with 28 RBI, 29 runs scored, eight stolen bases and an on-base percentage of .580.

He started the past two seasons at third base, earning All-Class 4A and All-Southeast Kansas League First Team. The Tigers were the SEK champs last season and finished 22-2 overall and third place in 4A.

“Coach (Josh) Regan brought a different style of baseball than what I was used to,” Bowles said. “I was used to being a bunt a runner over guy. When I got to high school, it turned into a hit the runner in, which I struggled with but finally put it all together my junior year. A big thing Coach Regan preaches is mental toughness, and I have been through some team building stuff that involved being in the woods all night … in the freezing rain and all. He and the other coaches have showed me the true meaning of mental toughness and have showed me to look adversity in the eyes and take it on head first.

“My strengths would definitely go more to my defense. I feel like my glove is my best tool, and I have a quicker release to make up for lack of arm strength. As well as my mental game … I feel it’s the best I’ve got in my bag as far as knowing game situations, thinking ahead and keeping a positive mind. With that, I do need to put on some size and work on barreling more balls up to hit for those doubles and triples.”

One thing that has become a bigger plus for Bowles over the past year or so has been the development of his leadership qualities. Not only has he been a standout in baseball, but he had to take on a key role as the starting quarterback for football. Despite going just 1-8 on the field, Bowles said he learned a lot through that kind of adversity.

“Stepping into the QB spot after such a strong team the year before and with a new head coach in Bo Graham, there was some pressure for sure, but nothing I wasn’t used to,” said Bowles, who was named All-SEK Second Team at quarterback and Honorable Mention as punter. “It was truly eye opening for me as a leader. Our season was nothing close to what anyone expected. I had to learn a new way to motivate guys to not throw in the towel when it gets tough. Being the QB, all eyes were on me in school and in public it seemed everywhere I went I heard ‘What’s up QB?’, so doing the right thing all the time was even more important then.”

Bowles will be looking forward to competing at Neosho County Community College under the leadership of head coach Steve Murry. The Panthers had their 2020 season cut short with an 11-6 record after the pandemic forced the cancellation of the remainder of the spring sports schedule.

“Other than Neosho, I didn’t have a whole lot of schools showing any interest,” Bowles said. “It was still a little early, but after going on a visit to Neosho meeting Coach Murry and (Mike) Gilner, I knew that was the place for me. Them showing interest in a smaller dude like myself really showed that they just wanted guys who play with all they’ve got and not the guys who just look the part. With some older guys ahead of me going there and moving on to Division I schools already showed Neosho had to be doing something right.”

Although his time inside Fort Scott High School has come to an end, he is still wrapping up some final details before graduation. He will also be preparing this summer for life at the college level.

“I was lucky enough to have mostly all A’s when school was cancelled,” Bowles said. “So other than one grade that had to be brought up, I really haven’t had a whole lot of school work. I am lucky enough to have a job at a farm here in Fort Scott, so I’ve stayed busy through the whole deal.

“My head right now is honestly just trying to make the best out of each day. I mean a lot worse things could be happening than a sport or the rest of my senior year being taken away. I am able to get out and throw, but trying to find cages is a bit challenging at the moment, as well as finding a weight room to get in. I just want to finish doing all I can to prepare for college.”

SEK-SPORTS: What are some of your interests and hobbies away from school?
BOWLES: “Some of my interests away from school are mostly the outdoors … fishing, hunting, camping … anything to do with the outdoors. Within the past year, I have picked up a camera and started taking pictures of hunts and fishing.”

SEK-SPORTS: Who is your favorite athlete? Favorite sports team? Favorite music group/singer?
BOWLES: “My favorite athlete would have to be Yadier Molina. Sports teams are KC Chiefs and St. Louis Cardinals. My favorite singer is Tyler Childers.”

SEK-SPORTS: Who are the people that you look up to as far as role models?
BOWLES: “As far as role models go, I would have to say my father, Leon Bowles. But also, I would have to say all of my high school baseball and football coaches.”

SEK-SPORTS: What is a fun fact about you that people may or may not know?
BOWLES: “A fun fact about myself would be that Vans are my favorite shoes.”