Spike Owen, who played shortstop and third baseman for the Longhorns in the early 1980s, has found his way back to Austin as the interim manager of the Round Rock Express.
While at Texas, Owen led Texas to several Southwest Championships and was named All-Conference shortstop in 1981 and 1982. Owen also led the team to two College World Series appearances in 1981 and 1982 but was unable to bring the trophy home from Omaha.
In 1983, the year after he left Texas, the Longhorns brought home a title. Despite this, Owen still highlights the importance of taking a trip to Omaha.
“It’s a great feeling. When you’re professional you want to play in the World Series and it’s really no different in college to have the chance to play for a national championship,” Owen said. “We came up short when I was there and it’s something I will kind of always regret, but going to Omaha is something special.”
Drafted by Seattle with the No. 6 overall pick in the 1982 draft, Owen played for the Mariners for four years before being traded to Boston. As a member of the Red Sox, Owen tied a league record for most runs scored in a single game with six. He also made an appearance in the World Series where he hit .300 with the Red Sox in 1986 when they lost four games to three against the New York Mets.
Throughout his career, Owen was constantly praised for his success at the plate. He had the ability to draw walks out of a pitcher and could perform well in the clutch. His aggressive competition and his leadership led him through a 12-year Major League career, experience that has helped him in his new career.
“He’s a great coach,” said Express outfielder Brad Nelson. “Any guy with double digits in the big league — he knows something, he’s doing something right. What he’s been around and seen in this game is far more than any one of us can relate to. Anyone with that kind of knowledge — you’re always going to get better.”
In 2002, Owen was installed as the bench coach for the Express while it was still an affiliate of the Houston Astros. He is now the interim manager for Round Rock under its new affiliation with the Texas Rangers.
“It’s good to be back home, I love Austin,” Owen said. “It’s my second time around. I was with Round Rock with the Astros when they were here and I was really happy to be able to come back.”
Owen fondly remembers his college days and the style of play employed by his head coach Cliff Gustafson — Gus Ball.
“Coach Gus built his team around pitching and defense as well, however, we didn’t bunt as much as Augie bunts,” Owen said. “With Texas, the pitching prospects they have coming through here are some of the best in the country and he wanted to surround them with guys who could catch the ball and turn outs.”
And even though he’s on the road a lot during the Express’s season, Owen still had a chance to watch his alma mater play ball.
“I got to see a little bit during the playoffs. They had a good year,” Owen said. “I know for us Longhorns we want to win it all and that’s a goal every year, but hopefully we can build on this and get back there next year.”