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Irrepressible Larry Bowa spurns TV to throw BP

TAMPA, Fla. - Larry Bowa tapped his knuckles on the wooden bench in the visitors' dugout at Steinbrenner Field Wednesday morning before answering the question.

TAMPA, Fla. - Larry Bowa tapped his knuckles on the wooden bench in the visitors' dugout at Steinbrenner Field Wednesday morning before answering the question.

"For some reason," he said, "I've never had arm problems. I always threw. I remember throwing in Little League with my dad who was an excellent baseball player. The one thing we did every day was throw the baseball."

Bowa, at 69, is still throwing it. In fact, you will not find an older man in baseball still throwing batting practice.

"There is no one older than him in baseball, I don't think," John Kruk said.

Kruk, the former Phillies first baseman now employed by ESPN, was wrong about that. Former Phillies coach Davey Lopes, now with the Los Angeles Dodgers, is seven months older than Bowa, but he does not throw batting practice.

Kruk, who played for Bowa when he was a manager in San Diego and a coach with the Phillies, has a theory on why his most revered baseball mentor is still throwing batting practice.

"If you're [manager] Ryne Sandberg and the rest of the coaches, wouldn't you want him out there instead of back here at the cages talking?" Kruk said. "You know what, though, he is 69 and he still has the energy of a 25-year-old. I think he has to throw BP or he'd go crazy."

Bowa does it because he loves it, and he feels as if it is part of his responsibility as a coach.

"It's a mind-set with me," he said. "When I played, during the winter I'd say: 'I'm going to play 150-plus games every season.' I basically brainwashed myself into thinking that way even though I wasn't very big. I do that now as a coach. I tell myself, 'You're going to be around for 162 games, so you have to contribute by hitting fungos, talking to players, and throwing batting practice.' I condition my mind for that."

It's no easy assignment. The math goes something like this: Add the 45 days here in spring training to the 162-game schedule and multiply it by the roughly 100 pitches thrown each day by a batting-practice thrower, and the number of pitches thrown over the course of a season is somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000.

"I still have a lot of fun doing it," Bowa said. "You can talk trash. Spring training is probably the hardest time because I'm there at 5:30 in the morning . . . and then once the games start I probably don't get home until 6:30 or 7 at night. I'm in bed by 9. I do know one thing: I'm moving the screen up a little bit more each year, and I'm sure I have a tear in my arm somewhere."

This is Bowa's 50th year in baseball. Not all of them have been spent on the field, and not all of them have been spent with the Phillies, but the vast majority of them have been. This is his 30th season with the Phillies, and the only four seasons he was not on the field were 2005 after he was fired as the team's manager and 2011 through 2013 after a three-year stint as a coach with the Dodgers. He spent 2005 working as a studio analyst with ESPN and performed a similar role with MLB Network from 2011 through 2013.

He had a chance to go back to television this season. Comcast SportsNet wanted Bowa to replace Jamie Moyer as the third man in the booth with Tom McCarthy and Matt Stairs, but he felt too strong of an allegiance to Sandberg and the Phillies to leave, even though he understands tough times could lie ahead.

"They hit me with it in late January," Bowa said. "Ruben [Amaro Jr.] said, 'I think I owe it to you to tell you they want you.' I told him before I even talked to them that I don't jump ship. I came on with Ryne, and I know things aren't going good right now, but I don't believe you run away because we're not supposed to win 95 games. I feel like there was a commitment made, and I feel like you have to honor that commitment."

Bowa understands that another opportunity to be part of the broadcast team might not come along, and he also realizes how tenuous baseball jobs can be.

"I rolled the dice, but I know I'll do something," Bowa said. "It might just be working with minor-leaguers. It will be something involved in baseball."

Of that you can be sure.

"I consider myself a baseball lifer," Bowa said. "Just like Don Zimmer."