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Bowman soaking in all of the World Series

WHEELING — From Wheeling, W.Va. to the World Series — that’s the incredible journey of Mark Bowman, who graduated from Wheeling Central in 1992 and has been the Atlanta Braves’ beat writer for MLB.com since 2001.

Bowman watched Saturday night as the Braves defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series to clinch a spot in the World Series against the Houston Astros, with Game 1 taking place Tuesday night in Houston.

After 20 years of covering the Braves and witnessing some amazing moments, Bowman finally got to tell the story of a team bound for the Fall Classic.

“My first year of covering the team for MLB.com they went to the NLCS,” Bowman said. “Now, here we are 20 years later and I’m finally covering my first World Series for the Braves. You don’t take anything for granted. I’m really looking forward to getting down there. It will be a great experience.”

Although there was a lot to get done following the victory, Bowman wanted to make sure he took in the moment so he could accurately describe every detail in a story that will stand the test of time.

“In this age where we don’t have a hard deadline, you know this story is going to live forever,” Bowman said. “You want to do it justice. You do your initial story, which is three or four paragraphs and you send it in. Then, you go downstairs and talk to as many people as you can and really soak it all in. Then, I went upstairs and wrote it. The coolest thing is being able to allow yourself to be immersed in that excitement — not only with the players but on the field, you hear the crowd and that influences what you’re going to write. You want to be proud of what you wrote because you do hope that however many years down the road, when someone goes to read something about it that they stumble upon something you wrote and they say ‘this provides a lot of good memories about that night.'”

In the midst of all the excitement that the last several days has entailed, Bowman thought back to his days growing up in Wheeling with his best friend and current Wheeling Park baseball coach Steve Myers, who is a diehard Braves fan.

“Growing up my best friend was Stevie Myers,” Bowman said. “He loved the Braves and he loved Dale Murphy. I loved the Pirates but Stevie told me that his son is a Braves fan, too.

“Our quarterback in high school, Billy Isaly, his son is a Braves fan, as well. So, I’m happy for them. It’s pretty cool to think that back home they are happy.”

Another Ohio Valley connection with the Braves is legend Phil Niekro, who died on Dec. 26 of 2020. Niekro, a 1957 grad of Bridgeport and an OVAC Hall of Famer, won 318 games during his 24-year pitching career in the big leagues.

Bowman couldn’t help but feel that Niekro, along with the great Hank Aaron, who died on Jan. 22, may be the Braves’ Angels in the Outfield.

“You’re going to hear a lot about Hank Aaron over the next few weeks but another Ohio Valley connection is that people here in the Braves organization are going to remember how special it is for Phil Niekro, as well,” Bowman said. “In a year in which the Braves organization lost Hank and Phil, I almost like to think they are looking over this team. If you think about what this team has gone through — they didn’t have a winning record until August, they lost Ronald Acuna Jr., they lost Marcell Ozuna and they get no innings from Mike Soroka and all of a sudden, they are in the World Series. I like to think someone is looking over you. Hank and Phil are two guys who certainly loved the Braves as much as anybody.”

With everything going against Atlanta this year, that is what makes its World Series run even more special and Bowman has simply enjoyed getting the opportunity to tell that unimaginable story to the world.

“Personalities in baseball are great,” Bowman said. “Getting to know people is the key to telling great stories. As a journalist you stay impartial but at the same time, you’re happy for people. I’m happy for (Braves manager) Brian Snitker who’s been in the organization for 40-plus years and he’ll be able to go to a World Series and compete against his son who is the hitting coach for the Astros. I’m happy for Freddie Freeman who has been there since 2010 and he’s gone through some good years and the rebuild.

“While you stay impartial, you’re still a human being. If you don’t get excited to see other people excited, then I don’t know.”

Although Bowman did help out with coverage of the 2009 World Series, this will be his first time covering the Braves for MLB.com in the Fall Classic, which is the ultimate dream come true for any sports writer.

“I covered the Phillies and Yankees World Series,” Bowman said. “I wasn’t covering it for either team, I was just there to help for MLB.com but I will try to soak this in. I think you have to. To truly paint the picture, you have to have an understanding of your surroundings. Don’t just sit there and count down the outs. Allow some emotion to get into your writing and allow yourself to be a part of the event.”

While his alma mater is off this weekend, Bowman says even during the World Series he will have his hometown on his mind.

“I’m always keeping up with what Wheeling Central is doing,” Bowman said. “I don’t know if Central will play next week or not but there will be a World Series game and I’ll have 95% of my attention on that game but I will know what Central is doing if they are playing, as well.”

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