05/19/2016 9:56 AM -
There were times when former Oilmen pitcher Andrew Lowe thought his baseball career was over.
Time and time again, the Whiting High School and University of Wisconsin-Whitewater graduate has found himself back on the diamond.
This time, the diamond happens to be within a professional baseball stadium, as Lowe has made the Opening Day roster for the Frontier League’s Windy City ThunderBolts. Lowe made his professional debut with a scoreless inning on May 13 at Florence, then received the win by virtue of two flawless frames on May 15.
“I’m sitting in the bullpen, we’re sitting there stretching out and getting loose,” Lowe said. “When I saw my signal for the first time, all the adrenaline took over. I was just wired. The ball felt light – I felt like I could throw it wherever I wanted. I had to stop and remind myself to take a deep breath and just soak it all in. It’s really cool to get out there and have the lights on you and the crowd cheering for you or against you.”
Lowe’s ex-Oilmen teammate Matt Pobereyko pitched in the same game on May 15, when Pobereyko made his debut about of the Freedom bullpen. The two join Billy Miller (2014 Joliet Slammers), Andrew Wellwerts (2015 Homestead Greys / Garden State Greys) and Kevin Franchetti (2013 Normal Cornbelters / 2014 & 2015 Lake Erie Crushers) as the Oilmen players who have gone to play professionally.
Lowe learned he made the Windy City roster the day before the season started. Although making it through camp was an accomplishment, Lowe’s work is far from done.
“I’m fighting for my job every day to stay on as long as I can and hopefully get picked up by a big league organization at some point,” he said. “I want to learn from the guys on my team who have played affiliated ball. Playing for the ThunderBolts has been an awesome experience so far, and I think we’re just getting started.”
The former Oilmen right-hander also pitched for the Chicago Zephyrs in 2013 and played in the Midwest Collegiate League All-Star Game at Oil City Stadium that season. After finishing his senior season at Wisconsin Whitewater, Lowe joined the Oilmen radio broadcast as a color commentator for select home games during the 2015 summer season.
The ThunderBolts pitching staff features two other former MCL players: Brett Maus, who started for DuPage County in the first game in Oilmen history in 2012 and Chris Chigas, who was the winning pitcher for the Southland Vikings in the clinching game of the 2013 MCL Championship against the Oilmen.
After graduating from Whiting High School in 2010, Lowe began a long and winding college career. He sat out his freshman year as a redshirt, then missed the 2012 season after undergoing total reconstruction of his ulnar collateral ligament, better known as Tommy John surgery.
Prior to the 2013 season, Lowe sliced two tendons in his fingers and needed surgery to reattach them, costing him another year. Finally, Lowe returned to the field for UW-Whitewater in 2014.
“It was my senior year academically, but my first year on the field,” he said. “We won a national championship, which was cool. It’s been a crazy, wild, emotional rollercoaster. There was a time where I used to take this game for granted. It’s a blessing and a privilege.”
Pitching out of the Oilmen bullpen in 2014 ranks among Lowe’s fondest baseball memories.
“It was an awesome opportunity to be able to be at home and pitch at home,” Lowe said. “(Former Oilmen manager Justin Huisman) was really good to me and gave me a shot. I didn’t play much at Whitewater going into that summer, but he gave me the ball out of the bullpen and let me go do my thing. I learned from a lot of the guys with the talent we had on that team.”