Nowak excited for possibly last shot to prove himself
The decision for Chris Nowak to sign a contract last month with the Arizona Diamondbacks actually wasn’t as easy most of us would think.
But how could that be? Nowak has spent the last two years crushing the ball with the York Revolution. He has seemingly turned around his career by making the long ball part of his game, something that had been missing most of his career and turned away pro scouts as a result.
Then he went down to Venezuela this winter (admittedly making good money doing so) for another opportunity to get noticed by pro scouts. And he batted .311, clubbed six homers and totaled 16 RBIs in 37 games with the Navegantes del Magallanes.
It must have caught the eye of someone in the D’Backs’ organization. Finally, Nowak had an affiliated contract again since being cut by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011 after playing in 19 games that year at Class AAA Nashville. Surely he would jump at the opportunity with the D’Backs.
“It was exciting and kind of also like ‘Should this be my next step? Should this be something that I should do?’” Nowak said by phone Wednesday night. “Megan and I are having a baby. It was still really the hardest decision I had to make to sign the contract.”
Could thoughts of retirement be floating in the head of Nowak, 29, following nine seasons of pro ball?
“Yeah there was,” he said. “You play for so long. I’ve had fun and been successful but in the long run…just after prayer and talking long nights on the phone and through tough conversations with my wife it ended up being the right decision (to sign with Arizona).”
Nowak returned from Venezuela to his Wisconsin home last Wednesday, just in time to see the birth of his first child — daughter Estelle Marie — on Sunday. Nowak will report to minor league spring training camp at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Arizona, in early March.
He he has a shot at making the D’Backs’ Class AA Mobile club but said the spring training invite is essentially a tryout.
“The deal strikes for double-A but I’m not guaranteed a spot,” he said. “I guess it’s a tryout but hopefully going there and them watching me play a little bit I should be able to find a spot there.”
Nowak, who has played first base and third base most of his career, will tryout in the outfield for the D’Backs. It’s a position he’s only played sparingly during his career. But Nowak feels he has the skills and the speed for it. And he’s not gonna drop weight or doing anything differently to prepare for the position.
“I’m gonna stay who I am,” he said. “I’m not like a burner anyway but I’m not slow by any means, either. Maybe being as tall as I am and seeing me in the outfield will make some sense or whatever.”
Either way, Nowak feels this is likely his last shot to prove himself in affiliated ball — with the ultimate goal of reaching the majors in the first time in his career.
“Definitely. The team I played for in the winter would like for me to come back next year so there is still that in the back of my mind. It was fun and better pay and so on and so forth so it was still in my mind to maybe keep playing. But still this is going to be a long process. And I have the opportunity right in front of me.”
No matter what happens, Nowak is grateful of his time in York.
“I love York, the fans and the team. I love playing there,” he said. “It’s fun but it’s tough to keep going back to it. People know the league isn’t a high-paying league and rightfully so. You have to get your opportunity to play affiliated ball. If the league would pay more it would be enticing to come back. But when you have a family and you’re away from them it makes it tougher and tougher.”
Notes: Nowak also shared these others notes from the interview:
- Nowak played in front of crowds of 15,000-plus in Venezuela.
- He didn’t see any action in the Venezuela Championship Series, which the Navegantes won in seven games. The Navegantes brought in San Francisco Giants’ slugger and had little intentions of playing Nowak. “They had me there kind of as an insurance policy. Plus my wife was pregnant and I wanted to come home.”
- The Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals also expressed interest in Nowak at some point during the winter. “The Twins actually called after I had gotten signed and congratulated me through the agency.”
- A physical education major when he attended University of South Carolina-Upstate in the early 2000s, Nowak said he was going to start taking online classes this March with the University of Phoenix for a business degree. “I’ll hold off on it another year and see what kind of opportunity evolves from this. Maybe next year go back to school.”
-Former Revs’ outfielder Stephen Douglas in camp? Nowak said he heard Douglas might be at the D’Backs’ minor league spring training camp but wasn’t sure. So, I called Douglas and he told me this:
“I’m hoping the thing with the D’Backs works out. They said more than likely a spot in centerfield in triple-A is gonna be mine,” Douglas said. “I still have to work some things out. Either way I plan on playing. I fly out to Scottsdale on the 15th (of February) and will meet some other guys and work out for the weekend and we’ll take it from there.”
Douglas is still under contract with the American Association’s Laredo club, where York traded him to last year. In his third game with Laredo, Douglas was hit by a pitch on his left hand and shattered the tip of his ring finger. He missed six weeks as a result. Douglas said he also has future plans to be an associate coach for Georgia Highlands Community College when it begins collegiate competition in the spring of 2014.
Walker going to Mexico: Douglas said he and former Revs’ outfielder Chris Walker are workout buddies in the off-season. Walker apparently played winter ball in Mexico this off-season and earned a contract with Saltillo to play this spring.