In their 27 season major league history, the Florida and Miami Marlins have had a total of 590 players suit up and get into a game.
The 184th to enter the pantheon of Marlins history was outfielder Eric Owens, on Opening Day, 2001. Later in the same game, pinch hitter Lyle Mouton became the 185th. In that game, a four hour and six minute, 13-inning affair, the Marlins dropped a 6-5 decision to the Philadelphia Phillies. Owens’ maiden voyage with the team would see him go one-for-six, with a leadoff home run in the fourth inning.
Eric Blake Owens was a six-foot-one 185 lb. right-handed outfielder from Danville, VA. Born on this date in 1971, he was originally a fourth round draft selection of the Cincinnati Reds in 1992 out of Ferrum College.
Owens worked his way up through the Reds system for a few seasons, and made his major league debut in the middle of the 1995 campaign. After going two-for-three with an RBI in two appearances, he was relegated back to the Indianapolis Indians for the balance of the campaign in the Triple-A American Association.
After two more seasons spent split between the Reds and Indianapolis, Owens was traded from Cincinnati to the Marlins for PTBNL Jesus Martinez. It wasn’t really yet meant to be, however, as Owens was flipped straightaway to the Milwaukee Brewers in a cash deal. He went just five-for-40 in 34 games for the Crew, and signed with the San Diego Padres through free agency for the 1999 season.
Owens finally found a home at baseball’s top level with the Friars, leading the team with 149 games and making appearances at all three outfield positions, first, second, and third base. He played for San Diego for two seasons in total, hitting .282/.338/.385 in 294 games.
Less than a week prior to 2001 Opening Day, the Reds traded Owens to the Marlins with Omar Ortiz and Matt Clement for Cesar Crespo and Mark Kotsay.
Owens played in 119 games for the Marlins overall that year, hitting .253/.302/.335 with five homers and 28 RBI. His 68 OPS+ was the lowest mark on the team from amongst the nine qualified players. Despite that, the Marlins were 62-57 in games in which Owens appeared, and 14-29 in games that he didn’t. Somewhat of a lucky charm it seems?
On April 27th, Owens had his best performance of the year in a 9-8, 10-inning win against the Houston Astros. He singled and scored in the first and in the second, singled for a third time in the sixth, singled and scored in the eighth, and hit a solo long-ball in the top of the 10th with the eventual game-winner.
In 2002, Owens remained with the Marlins and played in another 131 contests for them. A nominal improvement in his slash line to .270/.324/.366 was accompanied by a surprising return of Owens’ speed. He slapped a career-second-best five triples and ranked third on the Marlins with 26 stolen bases. Owens also displayed a career-low strikeout rate, waving just 7.8 percent of the time while walking nearly as much, at a 7.3 percent clip.
Again, Owens was somewhat of a lucky charm for the Marlins. They were 67-64 with him in the game and 12-19 when he didn’t play. Whatever the case, Owens followed up a season in which he totaled a career-second-worst -0.9 WAR with a season career-second-best 1.5 WAR.
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Owens joined the Anaheim Angels for their 2003 season through free agency, and hit .270 in 111 games in what would be his last time at the major league level. Despite two more seasons in professional ball, he didn’t graduate past the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens in 2004 or the Tijuana Petroleros in the Mexican League in 2005.
For three years following Owens’ retirement, he was a hitting coach at various levels of the minors for the Angels, first with the Cedar Rapids Kernels then with the Arkansas Travelers. In 2015, he reemerged at the major league level as the assistant hitting coach for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Thanks for reading, and happy birthday to Owens.