CLEVELAND — Chris O’Dowd is experiencing a major league clubhouse for the second time in his life. This round feels more authentic and makes him realize he’s not all that far away at Double-A Birmingham.
The White Sox minor leaguer joined the team on Tuesday to fill in as the big league club’s emergency bullpen catcher after Adam Ricks left the team to deal with a sore knee.
It’s the second time in O’Dowd’s life he’s had access to a major league clubhouse. He routinely visited the Colorado Rockies clubhouse from 1999-2014 when his father, Dan O’Dowd, was the team’s general manager. Whereas before he was a teen who tried to go unnoticed, this time O’Dowd, 26, is more at ease because of his playing experience.
“I tried to be a fly on the wall,” O’Dowd said. “Part of it as a kid too — everyone has grinded and done everything they can their whole life to be here today. I always wanted it to be that I attained it by me going through the same thing everyone else has to be in this situation. I was very cautious with how much time and how immersed I was into the clubhouse side of things growing up.”
O’Dowd has been heavily immersed in the White Sox since he joined the team in Tampa Bay to fill in for Ricks. He’s spent most of his pregame sessions in the bullpen, takes batting practice, sits in on advanced meetings and has been on the run all week, soaking up the major league atmosphere. And he isn’t asking any questions about how long he may stay with the White Sox (he’s currently on the seven-day DL at Double-A with a sore hamstring).
A 23rd-round pick of the San Diego Padres in 2012, O’Dowd has also played in the Atlanta Braves and Rockies organizations. A Dartmouth College grad who double majored in Economics and English with a Psychology minor, O’Dowd is grateful to be in the big leagues.
He’s been very impressed with how prepared the coaches are as well as the willingness of players to use the information provided. He also realizes that his level of preparation is similar to his peers.
“Being here on a daily basis puts me in the middle of the good, the bad, the grind of it and what it takes to come to the ballpark every day and piece together a good day to help the team win,” O’Dowd said. “It’s just good to see how everyone does it a little differently, but how everyone has the conviction and intent to show up every day and do what they need to do to be ready.
"When you take a guy like me that’s been in Double-A for four years now and Triple-A, you do feel like you’re far away from the big leagues and what’s it going to take to get over the hump? And you see guys attack each day the same way that we do and that there’s not really that much of a divide. So it’s more motivation than anything to know that you’re closer than you probably ever thought. The right circumstances, the right spot, it could happen and you could be here in the clubhouse.”
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And if he never does make his way here as a player, O’Dowd knows how lucky he is to have this experience. O’Dowd said he’s grateful to everyone who has helped him reach this point — “so many people that have helped me, been a part of this journey and believed in me and continue to believe in me in the moments that you face a lot of adversity,” he said.
Given how much time he’s spent around baseball, his unique view into the front office and playing experience, it’s only natural to think O’Dowd has a future beyond baseball. O’Dowd isn’t yet ready to consider his next step. He’d still like to get here as a player. But if that doesn’t materialize, O’Dowd realizes this experience could be critical for his future.
“As a player you don’t want to have a Plan B and I’ve been all in trying to be the best I can at this,” O’Dowd said. “At some point in time you’ll have to think about that. But what I’m trying to do is continue to get the most out of my playing ability. If that leads to something else, this experience is invaluable and continues to shape my perspective, how I see the game and hopefully makes a transition easier.
“Any time you can be around a big league team and observe, I think there’s a value to it. It’s hard to quantify.”