This is the ninth article in a weekly series highlighting big local sports’ anniversaries, given the current down time for local sports. Readers are encouraged to share any of their memories from local sports this time of year — namely May, June and July — by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos would be appreciated too but are not a must.
For consideration to be included, please include what month (and day if known) and year the event took place.
This week, we take a look back at one of the bigger anniversaries from Wilkes County sports in the summer months of 2001 … 19 years ago at this time:
Howell nabs first win as a Spinner
EDITOR’S NOTE: After playing baseball collegiately at Appalachian State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, West Wilkes graduate Jason Howell spent four seasons playing in the Boston Red Sox farm system. Making it as high as Double-A, Howell would hang up his playing cleats in 2004 and transition into the coaching ranks. Howell was an assistant coach at UNC, UNC-Wilmington and Georgia Tech, primarily working with pitchers. Howell was most recently an assistant coach with the Yellow Jackets from 2012-19. The following article, from his first professional season, is from the July 20, 2001, edition of the Wilkes Journal-Patriot. It has been edited.
In less than a month’s time, West Wilkes graduate Jason Howell has picked up his first two minor league pitching wins.
Howell, who plays for the Lowell Spinners, a Class-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, earned his first professional win on July 12 in Lowell, Mass. against the Auburn Doubledays (Toronto Blue Jays affiliate), and four days later picked up his second win against the Pittsfield Astros (Houston Astros).
The left-hander pitched the last four innings against the Doubledays, allowing three hits, one strikeout and no walks.
Howell’s second professional win came on July 16 against the Astros. He pitched three solid innings and allowed only one hit, one walk and two strikeouts. After this game, Howell is leading his team in wins.
Howell signed a pitcher in early June and has plated for the Spinners now approximately a month. The schedule for minor league teams is very hectic. Lowell’s first game was June 18, and since opening day, they have played 29 games.
The transition from college baseball to minor league baseball has been a good experience for Howell, but has not been without some adjustments from college play to professional play.
“The biggest difference in this and college is, of course, we play every day, but now it is a job and it is our careers,” Howell said. “We are expected to carry our load, and we are no longer babysat.”
Howell was very successful all the while at UNC-Chapel Hill where he ended the regular season with a .348 average. Not being able to step into the batter’s box and, instead, concentrating solely on pitching has been the biggest change he has had to deal with.
“The biggest adjustment has been not getting to play every day,” said Howell. “Before, in college, I got to hit as well as pitch, so I was constantly busy with something. If I was not doing well with one (pitching or hitting), I always had the other to take my mind off of it.
“But now, I am more used to my role and am real excited about the opportunity to just work on pitching,” added Howell. “It is finally good to get to concentrate all my energy on one and try to get as good as I can.”
Howell is a 1997 graduate of West Wilkes High School and graduated from UNC in December 2001.