McDowell not giving up on MLB despite not being drafted

McDowell, left out after six UNCW players were taken in the 2017 draft, has found a home in Grand Junction


Recent UNCW graduate Kennard McDowell makes a play in the infield for the Grand Junction Rockies. (Photo by Todd Bennett/Rocky Mountain Sports Report)

Brandon Sans, Assistant Sports Editor

Nearly a month after watching Delaware celebrate a Colonial Athletic Association championship on their home field, six UNC Wilmington players were able to begin anew after a disappointing ending to their college careers.

One by one, pitcher Josh Roberson (Miami Marlins), catcher Nick Feight (San Diego Padres), infielders Brian Mims (Philadelphia Phillies) and Terence Connelly (Arizona Diamondbacks), and outfielders Casey Golden (Colorado Rockies) and Robbie Thorburn (Baltimore Orioles) all heard their names called on the final day of the 2017 MLB Draft on June 14.

While six draftees tied a program record for most players taken in a single draft, the disappointment felt by Kennard McDowell after not hearing his name called did not mean his dream would come to an end – even if it meant him having to play outside the country.

“I was waiting on my passport to go to Canada to play with the Ottawa Champions,” said McDowell. “I got a call from an area scout that said I might get a call over the next couple days.”

When McDowell finally got that call, it was Colorado Rockies Manager of Player Development Chris Forbes on the other end. The Rockies needed middle infielders for their short-season teams and Forbes wanted to know how soon McDowell could fly to Colorado.

It didn’t take long for McDowell to fly to Grand Junction, Colorado, to join the Rockies rookie affiliate of the same name. One of the first things he did was surprise Golden with the news the former Seahawks would be teammates once again. Golden had signed with Colorado soon after the draft, allowing him to provide McDowell with a familiar face once the former UNCW shortstop arrived.

Though having been there only a couple weeks at this point, McDowell has taken notice of his new environment and coaching staff. The talent and dedication his new teammates display daily has allowed him to appreciate the development he received over his time as a Seahawk. He’s fared well thus far: going 6-for-14 with one RBI, two stolen bases, and two doubles.

“I feel like UNCW prepared me for this level, just being ready when your time is called,” he said. “Having that mental approach helps me at this level.”

The reality that only a tenth of NCAA senior baseball players are drafted by Major League organizations would make it much more unlikely an undrafted free agent like McDowell would be able to climb the five levels separating rookie ball and the big leagues, but he’s surprised people before.

After all, McDowell’s a player who joined Mark Scalf’s program out of community college and went on to become an All-CAA and NCAA All-Regional player. He understands what is required of him to help a team, and he believes that should give him a chance to continue playing baseball after his contract runs out at the end of Grand Junction’s season.

“After the draft, I didn’t want to give it up just yet,” said McDowell. “Whether it was (independent) ball or whatever it could be, I just wasn’t ready to give it up yet.”

Assistant Sports Editor Brandon Sans can be found on Twitter @Bsans10. Any tips or suggestions should be forwarded via email to