In 2009, Owings senior year at Gilbert High School in South Carolina, he commited to a baseball scholarship to the University of South Carolina.
But in August 2009, Chris signed with the Diamondbacks for $950,000, over the commissioner's office's recommended bonus amount. George Swain is the scout who signed him.
Chris has good makeup. He knows how to play the game. And he has the work ethic to continue improving at the game.
However, Owings is extremely competitive, he has a difficult time brushing off mistakes and has a tendency to be overly critical of himself.
In the winter before 2010 spring training, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Owings as the 5th-best prospect in the Diamondbacks' organization. They had Chris at #4 in the spring of 2011.
He was ranked 8th-best prospect in Arizona's farm system in the winter before 2012 spring training. They had him at #7 in the offseason before 2013 spring camps opened.
They moved Owings up to #3 in the D-Backs organization in the spring of 2014.
In 2013, Owings won the Pacific Coast League's Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Awards. He led the league in hits, runs, and total bases (263).
Chris batted .330 with 12 home runs and 81 RBIs with the Reno Aces and appeared in the Futures Game during the All-Star celebration. He ranked second among all minor league players with 180 hits and seventh with 104 runs.
In 2013, Owings took home the D-Backs Minor League Player of the Year award.
- Raising three baseball-playing sons in the Gilbert area over the past 18 years, John and Sherri Owings understand what the accomplishment of being a Major Leaguer meant to Chris. But they also have developed a much greater understanding of how life can throw curve balls off the playing fields.
In the summer of 2012, their youngest son, Connor, couldn’t shake a virus as he prepared to start his freshman year at Coastal Carolina. They were stunned when doctors told them that one of Connor’s kidneys was half the size of the other one and basically non-functioning, which meant that it was taxing his good kidney.
In the five stages of chronic kidney disease, Connor was diagnosed as being in the fourth stage, which is considered severe. He was placed on the transplant list this summer.
The family has begun to go through the process of seeing which one might be able to serve as a potential donor. Sherri is being tested first since she is the same blood type as Connor. In the meantime, he continues to do what he has done his entire life—going to school and playing baseball.
Now a sophomore second baseman for the Chanticleers, Connor manages his medical issues with proper diet, hydration and rest, and he carries a full load in the classroom.
Like his parents were there for Chris in San Francisco for his first week in the Majors, they were there for Connor in 2012 when he was in the hospital.
“I know she wants more than anything to be a match,” he said of his Mom. “It means a lot to me, more than she probably knows.”
- Chris's mother, Sherri Owings, said the family has navigated life’s ups and downs thanks in part to the warm small-town embrace of Gilbert, where all three sons—Kyle, Chris, and Connor—helped turn the high school program into a baseball powerhouse. Kyle, a pitcher who finished his collegiate career at the College of Charleston, and Chris, who was a supplemental first-round draft pick by Arizona in the 2009 MLB draft, led the Indians to state championships in 2006 and 2008, while Connor did the same in 2012.
“It has been a good community for our family and a good place to raise kids,” Sherri said. “I’ll see people in the store, and they’re so excited for Christopher. But in the next breath, they say they’re praying for Connor.”
- John and Sherri settled in Gilbert in the mid-1990s, when John’s job as a branch manager at Best Distributing, a roofing and exterior building materials company, brought him there. A few years later, Sherri went back to work as a teacher at Batesburg-Leesville Primary School.
John, who was raised in a military family, played baseball at Baptist College, while Sherri, a Pennsylvania native, played softball and volleyball at Mercyhurst College. People used to tell John when they saw Sherri playing catch with one of the kids that they got their ability from her.
Baseball provided a strong connectivity among them as they planned their family vacations—which included quite a few trips to MLB parks—around the boys’ playing schedule. Kyle, 23, and Chris, 22, played on the same teams in travel and school baseball because of their age similarity. Connor, 19, would tag along in his younger days.
“I don’t think I’d be nearly where I am today or the type of person I am today without my parents,” Connor said. “They’ve always been there for me.”
They’re still there for all of their kids. All three continue to play baseball in different parts of the country, but John and Sherri try to catch every moment they can. They have traveled to college, minor league and major league games in the Carolinas, Virginia, Alabama, Missouri, Indiana, Nevada, California and Washington state. They always make the Opening Days of wherever their sons are playing.
- Kyle pitched for Spartanburg Methodist and College of Charleston before pitching one season in the Diamondbacks organization. In 2013, he pitched in the independent Frontier League and plans to do that again next year in the hope of catching on with another MLB organization.
“It’s meant a lot to have them there, especially looking up to them in the stands,” Kyle said. “Or you walk into the locker room after the game and have a text from them that says, ‘Good game.’ It’s just nice to know they’re behind everything we do no matter what it is.”
That’s what Chris found so meaningful about them watching him get his first big league hit in San Francisco in September 2013.
“It’s kind of funny. We went to a lot of baseball games growing up as a family,” Chris said. “For them to come to a big league ballpark and watch me play, I thought that was pretty cool for me and for them.”
- Gilbert High baseball coach Ashley Burnett witnessed the closeness of the Owings family over a 10-year stretch from 2003-12, when the Owings kids rolled through his program. He called their selflessness as significant as the talent of the three players who all made it to the S.C. Select All-Star teams in their senior seasons.
“The entire family was just great for our baseball program,” Burnett said. “They did their canteen duty. When we did our fundraisers, they more than fulfilled their part. John and Sherri really were supporters of our entire program, not just their children. What they did off the field was as good as what the kids did on the field. They’re quality people, all five of them.”
Burnett calls Chris the best player—as well as the hardest-working — he has coached. He noticed something else, too.
“Chris learned to adapt and change, and his mental aspect is very strong. He pays attention and studies the game,” Burnett said. “When you get to that level, you have to do that. It can’t be all talent. There has to be a cognitive process going on.”
Chris Owings’ arrival in the big leagues probably doesn’t come as a huge shock to people who follow the game closely. He started on the Gilbert varsity team as an eighth-grader and began making his mark in the travel ball ranks, first with the Carolina Lynx and then with the powerhouse Diamonds Devils program.
Kyle watched his younger brother compete with older, bigger players and more than hold his own over the years, especially during their high school days.
“We knew back then he was good,” Kyle said. “Seeing someone that young against players 17 and 18 years old, that was when you started to know that he was going to be special.”
College coaches and professional scouts quickly realized the same. The South Carolina coaches got a commitment from Chris, but as time passed, they realized that he would likely never make it to campus. John remembers a Perfect Game showcase in Florida where Chris performed so well that professional scouts and baseball agents started beating a path to his door.
“I knew then this must be real,” John said. It was.
By the time the 2009 draft rolled around, Chris had jumped way up the boards of many teams. The Diamondbacks made him the 41st overall pick in the supplemental part of the first round, out of Gilbert High School in Gilbert, South Carolina. And while he thought about going to USC, where he likely would have ended up as the starting shortstop on the two national championship teams, he believed the $950,000 bonus offer and the commitment from the Diamondbacks was right for him.
Since arriving in Arizona on Sept. 3, 2013, he showed that he should be there, although he admits it took him a little time to catch up with the speed of the game while playing in front of the biggest crowds of his life.
And manager Kirk Gibson liked what he saw.
“He looks good. He’s grown up. We’ve watched him mature. We’ve watched him come up through the organization,” Gibson told MLB.com. “The things he’s been working on, he’s implementing here. That’s what you look for. He’s got great hand-eye coordination. He’s got a little bit of sock. You can see he’s got bat speed. He runs decent. He stole a couple of bases, played solid defense—he’s done well.”
His parents, John and Sherri, have appreciated how Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore worked with Connor in a supportive way.
“All you want to do is be helpful to him. He’s one of the finest kids that I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching,” Gilmore said. “His heart is so much into the baseball part, and he wants to be good so badly. He has worked so hard at it. Yet he never complains. I’ve never heard a negative word about how he has this issue and how he’s challenged by it.”
His family refuses to make a big production out of his situation, something that doesn’t surprise Burnett, who would gladly donate a kidney to Connor.
“To have something like that, especially at this age, is devastating. But in typical Owings fashion, they handle it and they move on. They don’t make a big deal about it,” Burnett said. “That’s the way Connor is approaching it, and that’s the way John and Sherri are approaching it.”
If possible, it has made the Owings even tighter.
“We’re pretty close as a family as it is, but having Connor going through this situation has been pretty crazy, especially with me being away last year,” Chris said. “But he’s a grinder and a strong kid.”
The Owings home sits on a dirt road tucked away in the western half of Lexington County. The den is filled with memorabilia from the playing careers of the three sons—from framed pictures to team jerseys to the baseball that Chris lined for his first MLB hit.
Kyle returned home in September 2013, working at Shealy Electrical and helping with the Gilbert High baseball program. Chris returns soon after Arizona’s season ends, and he’ll continue to work out at Gilbert over the offseason. Connor will return home when Coastal Carolina breaks for the semester. (Neil White - 9/27/13)
Former D-Backs manager Kirk Gibson said of Owings, "If you ask that kid to do something, he's outstanding. He's always had a good attitude, willing to learn, always listens and always tries to implement. That's why he's improved so much."
Sept 30, 2016: Chris has done it all in 2016. He's played in the outfield and the infield. He's contributed offensively. He is a team-first player. That's why he was voted by teammates and coaches as this year's recipient of the Luis Gonzalez Award for selflessness and hard play. One thing the D-backs' do-it-all player hasn't done too much is hit homers. But in a 5-3 win over the Padres at Chase Field, Owings came through with a go-ahead, two-run blast in the sixth, the key blow in a series-opening victory.
"That's the kind of power that we see Chris display daily during BP," manager Chip Hale said. "He's got big power to right-center field. The talk when I got here before his shoulder surgery, he really drove the ball to right-center a lot in the Minor Leagues. He's starting to get comfortable and he just stayed on that pitch and rode it out of here."
"It's been unique, for sure," Owings said. "I did my best as I could [in the outfield] and it's been kind of nice going back to short and getting comfortable again. It's kind of like riding a bike, once you play it for a week or so, you feel like you're back in the swing of things."
As for the power, Owings feels that will keep building as his shoulder continues to feel better. It certainly looked as if that's possible, based on the opposite-field homer he belted off Padres starter Edwin Jackson.
"I feel like this year, I've taken a big step of just getting healthy, getting it back stronger," Owings said. "I think the power will come back." (J Rill - MLB.com - Oct 1, 2016)
- Jan 13, 2017: Chris and the D-backs avoided arbitration, agreeing to terms on a one-year deal
|DOB:||8/12/1991||Agent:||ACES (Brandon O'Hearn)|
|Birth City:||Charleston, SC|
|Draft:||Diamondbacks #1 (suppl.) - 2009 - Out of high school (SC)|
- None of Owings' tools are outstanding, but they all grade out as solid across the board.
Owings has a short, compact righthanded swing with lightning-quick, strong hands, and should hit for a good batting average (.270-.280) and 10-15 home runs per season. He has above average bat speed. And he is capable of using the whole field.
He understands the strike zone, but doesn't manage it very well. He lacks patience and doesn't recognize pitches real well. Before 2012, he tended to look for fastballs and often chased breaking balls out of the zone. But he improved in 2012, hanging in vs. breaking balls that fooled him before.
- Chris has a great feel for driving the ball to right-center field. He squares the ball up well, putting it in play from foul line to foul line.
- Chris doesn't have much power. But he hits a whole lot of line drives to the gaps for doubles. And he is hitting the ball with more authority as he matures as a hitter. He has plenty of bat speed. If he is sitting fastball, nobody can get their heater past him.
Owings has been compared to Gordon Beckham and Aaron Hill, with less power.
But if Chris becomes more disciplined at the plate, he could hit .280 with 15 homers per year.
Chris will not let a fastball strike go by. He is looking for a fastball in the strike zone and not really chasing a ball out of the zone. He just doesn’t miss good fastballs. It’s not that he doesn’t like to walk; it’s that he isn’t around long enough to get a walk.
In 2013, Owings cut down on the strikeouts that had been a long concern to scouts.
"I'm an aggressive hitter," Owings said. "I like hitting fastballs. I like swinging the bat. I felt like in the first half of 2013, I had only one or two off-days. And I feel like playing every day and getting those consistent at-bats and taking them how I should helped. I was having success, and obviously the confidence level that I was having made me see the ball better."
- As of the start of the 2017 season, Owings's career Major League stats were: .254 batting average, 15 home runs and 335 hits with 123 RBI's in 1,317 at-bats.
- Chris is a very good shortstop. He has the agility and body control you look for in a shortstop, along with solid actions, making all of the routine plays.
Owings reminds some scouts of Kurt Stillwell. But Chris is a bit better and should be at least an average big league shortstop.
- Chris has an almost-average arm at short, getting good carry on his throws. He has a quick release.
- He has soft hands.
- Owings plays all-out all the time. His quickness and agility are impressive, as is his dependable range.
During 2011 spring training, former star Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell and Owings worked on the finer points of the position, the kind of knowledge that can be invaluable coming from a 20-year Major Leaguer—the best angle for throwing to second base to start a double play, recognizing the best place to take a hop on a batted ball or on a relay from the outfield.
Former all-stars and Gold Glovers Matt Williams and Jay Bell also lent a hand.
"The coaches have been awesome. I've picked up a bunch of stuff. It was really good working with Alan Trammell," Chris said.
"Sponge," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said of Owings. "He's a very good player. You watch, he has good savvy. He runs well, has good pop. He's a good looking player. He's executed everything we've asked him to execute."
The Diamondbacks also noticed the things you can't teach, like how Owings receives the ball on a stolen base attempt at second base and makes a quick, snap tag at the bag.
- Owings doesn't have a lot of flash, but his range plays up thanks to his instincts.
- In 2016, Owings is the starting center fielder for the Diamondbacks.
- Chris has good speed. He is an average-or-better runner. He runs well and has good instincts on the bases.
- Owings has developed his base-running skills. He could top out around 20 steals a season.
- Chris can beat out slow infield rollers and take an extra base on outfielders with average arm strength. His speed is a major tool in his game.
In 2013, working with Reno manager Brett Butler, Owings improved his baserunning skills.
- There are two ingredients that help Owings take an extra base in certain situations. He has good speed, but also good technique—from the way he hustles out of the box, to the route he takes to first, to the way he rounds the base. Owings spends time during batting practice each day sharpening his skills on the bases, which helps him get a feel for balls he can run on.
"I run the bases during batting practice every day and I try to get the reads out there," he said. "I take it pretty serious. I feel like I've been an aggressive baserunner my whole career. Just playing the game hard is what it really boils down to. Just take the extra base when it's there." (Gilbert - mlb.com - 5/4/14)
- June 22, 2010: Owings was on the D.L. with plantar fasciitis (inflammation on the bottom of his foot) and didn't play after appearing in the June 22 Midwest League all-star game.
- September 26, 2013: Chris was on the D.L. with a left shoulder strain.
June 29, 2014: Owings was on the D.L. with a strained left shoulder, like he finished the 2013 season with.
July 1-Sept. 2, 2014: The MRI taken of Chris's left shoulder showed no structural damage.
"He's got a bruised shoulder," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "That's pretty good news. He won't hit for about a week probably. He'll do everything else. He'll throw and he'll do his running and stay in shape. Probably in about a week he'll start hitting again."
October 2, 2014: Owings underwent surgery to repair the posterior labrum of his left shoulder. He is expected to be ready to go when 2015 Spring Training opens.
- June 6-July 23, 2016: Chris was on the DL with planter fasciitis in left foot.