WASHINGTON – This was a difficult year for nearly everyone involved in minor league baseball.
And that is certainly the case for former Nationals’ minor leaguer Jake Lowery, who spent part of the 2019 season with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators of the Eastern League.
The catcher/first baseman, a Richmond native and former James Madison University standout, was set to be a player/coach with high Single-A Fredericksburg of the Carolina League in 2020, continuing a nine-year career which saw him reach the Triple-A level in Washington’s system.
But the minor league season was called off due to the pandemic and Lowery was not able to be part of the alternate site in Fredericksburg, Virginia with the 60-player pool. He is also not scheduled to be in Florida for Instructional League, where games are slated to end Oct. 24 for the Nationals.
“They were able to have a few certain coaches,” Lowery, 30, told Federal Baseball. “They just kept it to certain coaches and certain times.”
Drafted by Cleveland out of JMU in 2011, Lowery has kept in touch with Tripp Keister, a former University of Delaware standout who was tabbed to be the Fredericksburg manager this year.
“We kept in contact a little bit. There really wasn’t anything to report; a little small talk here and there,” Lowery said of Keister, who has been part of the Instructional League in West Palm Beach.
“I was really looking forward to working with him,” Keister said.
Lowery played at Harrisburg last year for manager Matt LeCroy, a former bullpen coach for the Nationals.
“It is just in his blood,” LeCroy said of Lowery this summer. “You just knew he was going to be a coach. The big thing about Jake is he just loves baseball.”
Lowery and his wife, Karlyn, have two young children and live in the Richmond area. His wife ran track at George Mason University and is the volleyball coach at Cosby High, where Lowery played baseball for his father. With his wife teaching, Lowery has been spending a lot of his time with their children.
“My son is back in pre-K, which is awesome for him. My daughter is 10 months old. She is growing like a weed, crawling around and keeping me busy,” he said. “I am just trying to stay busy; I am trying to take advantage of the situation.”
Lowery watched a lot of baseball on TV when the Major League season began in July.
“It was awesome. It was good to see some live sports on TV again,” he said. “Even if there were no fans, it was good to see guys back out there.”
Lowery was teammates at Harrisburg in 2019 with outfielder Michael A. Taylor and pitcher Aaron Barrett – both of whom likely ended their careers with the Nationals this fall.
“I played against him so many years” in the minors, Lowery said of Taylor. “He was one of a kind and super down to Earth and cared about his craft. He is a great defender and Gold Glove finalist. I think he will be just fine somewhere.”
Barrett returned to the majors in 2019 after dealing with injuries for several seasons. He was part of the 60-player pool in Virginia before pitching for the Nationals this year.
“I know he worked his tail off in Fredericksburg to get back there” to the majors, Lowery said of Barrett.
Lowery also played at Harrisburg with fellow catcher Spencer Kieboom, who played briefly for the Nationals. “He began a new company” in the Atlanta area dealing in transportation, Lowery noted.
Lowery was the top college catcher in the country at JMU in Harrisonburg, Va., and named the Johnny Bench Award winner in 2011. He was able to meet the Hall of Fame catcher at a banquet in which Lowery was honored in Wichita, Kansas.
That year Lowery was drafted in the fourth round out of JMU by the Cleveland Indians.
The left-handed hitter reached the Double-A level with the Indians then joined the Washington system in the spring of 2016 after he was released by Cleveland.
He made it to Triple-A Syracuse in 2018 in the Washington farm system. The Virginia resident played in 462 games in the minors and hit .223 with 36 homers.
While he wants to go into coaching, Lowery has an outside shot of playing if he wanted.
The New York Times and Baseball America reported last year that there could be contraction in minor league baseball in 2021.
“I am a (minor league) free agent again. My contract expires after the World Series,” said Lowery, who is also interested in college coaching with the right fit.
“I may have some other opportunities in the works with baseball academies and events.
“The Nats may not have room (for me). They may not have room for a player-coach, which is wholly understandable.”
Could he play pro ball in 2021? “I would certainly entertain it. But I don’t think that would happen,” he said. “I like to keep my options open.”
He hopes to get to the JMU campus at some point. “I love going back,” he said.
“Doug was actually the first guy that called me when I signed (with the Nationals) in 2016,” Lowery said. “He has been an integral part and a tribute to the Nationals winning the world championship.”