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Monday, June 2, 2014

Loss of Bowles goes deeper than baseball for Gate City

Tom King

You never saw a happier guy around a baseball field than Tom Bowles.

The guy was having a ball on the coaching staff of the Nashua Silver Knights, whether it be working as the bench coach, working with the pitchers, whatever. ...

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You never saw a happier guy around a baseball field than Tom Bowles.

The guy was having a ball on the coaching staff of the Nashua Silver Knights, whether it be working as the bench coach, working with the pitchers, whatever.

Besides, he was on a winning team.

“This is great,” Bowles said last August. “A lot of fun. Can’t beat it.”

As former Silver Knights manager J.P. Pyne said the other day, “At a time when it seems less people are happy these days, he was a happy guy.”

Things are going to be a bit down around Holman Stadium in the coming days, though, and Bowles wouldn’t like that. As the Silver Knights players gather for the first time this season on Monday afternoon, those returning could be hearing the news of Bowles’ sudden passing late last week for the first time. Those new to the team will hear stories about the great coach they will miss out on getting to know.

“He was a big time leader for us last year,” former Silver Knights reliever Cody Rocha, who was the team’s top pitcher as its closer. “He was like that grandfather who had so much information and knew so much about the game.”

Last summer, Rocha credited the entire pitching staff’s success – tops in the league in earned run average – to the work Bowles did. When Rocha would enter a game, the public address announcer would bellow “It’s Rocha time!” That, Rocha said, came from Bowles.

You get the idea. Bowles was having a blast. He wanted the Silver Knights to feel the same way.

“He wanted to win, but he wanted the game to be played well,” Pyne said. “He wanted the kids to get better and have a great experience.”

Bowles coached at Goffstown High School. He coached youth baseball in Nashua. He coached at Nashua High School South. And he was coaching at Bishop Guertin this spring, quickly grabbed by Cards head coach Scott Painter a couple of years ago after Bowles and Neverett exited South.

Painter now has to get his players focused to begin Division I state tournament play on Thursday, a first round game likely at Holman, one of Bowles’ favorite places. The Silver Knights have to get ready for their season opener Wednesday at Old Orchard, and will likely begin the day attending Bowles’ funeral. Then there’s also the Friday night home opener. Last year it was ruined by rain. This year, even it if it’s sunny and nice, there will be a bit of a cloud hanging over it.

“You get that exciting feeling with Opening Night,” Silver Knights president Tim Bawmann said. “But it just won’t be the same.”

No it won’t. Bowles would be dressed and out of the coach’s office, on the field by the dugout, taking everything in before every game. A couple hours earlier he would meet with the pitchers, go over the game plan and who was in line to pitch that night after the starters went their usual six or seven.

“He always let us do whatever worked for us,” Bowles said, “but he always let us know if he thought something would be better.”

But, said Rocha, he left it up to the pitchers. Bowles was old school, but in his classroom there was room for give and take.

“I tried to soak up as much stuff as I could from him,” said Painter, who experienced the sudden loss of his own father around this same time three years ago.

Funny, Rocha had the same words.

One has to admit, it won’t be the same without him around Holman this summer. Last year yours truly approached Bowles about doing a story on him just before the start of the FCBL playoffs. He was a little hesitant, but eventually, as long as it talked about the pitchers’ success, he gave in.

You see, Bowles never liked the spotlight on him. Thus, he wouldn’t want his passing to take away from the fun scheduled for Holman on Friday, or dampen the success of both the BG baseball team and the Silver Knights, who will likely retire his No. 45.

But how can it not?

Holman will have one less
smiling face this summer.

Tom King can be reached at 594-6468 or tking@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow King on Twitter (@Telegraph_TomK).