Former Detroit Tigers bat boy Dave Cowart shows off his collection of sports memorabilia from his days with the team from the early 1980s, including the 1984 season when it won the World Series Championship. Cowart began working for the team as a junior in high school and continued as he began college.
By BOB OLIVER
DEARBORN – Dave Cowart wasn’t able to make it to the stadium for the 30th anniversary celebration of the 1984 World Series Championship of the Detroit Tigers, but a day doesn’t go by when he doesn’t think about his time in the sport.
Now a controls engineer for Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, in the early 1980s Cowart was a bat boy for the Tigers.
Cowart said that when he was just becoming a teenager his mother found and article on becoming a bat boy in a local newspaper, clipped it and saved it for him until he was 16 years old.
“My mom knew I was a big fan of the team so she saved it for me,” Cowart said. “I followed the instructions, never thinking I had a chance at the job, but was called in for an interview with equipment manager Jim Schmakel and started immediately.”
Cowart’s tenure began in 1980 and lasted until the end of the 1985 season.
“If you were a hard worker you were invited back for the next season,” Cowart said.
The job consisted of everything from unpacking player bags and setting up lockers to folding towels to making runs to Nemo’s and other local bars and eateries for hamburgers and food for players before games, recalls Cowart.
“Running errands for players was a big part of the job and it was good for us as bat boys because players always tipped you for running out,” Cowart said. “I saved that money and my salary and put myself through college.”
Cowart was a junior in high school when he started and continued working as he began attending the University of Detroit for his electrical engineering degree.
Cowart said that bat boys worked every home game and were allowed to make one road trip with the team per season, except to New York.
“They didn’t want to turn us loose in New York City, which is understandable,” Cowart said. “But I got to go on different trips and visited every American League ballpark except Toronto and New York, both of which I visited after my time with the team ended.”
Cowart said that the 1984 season was special for how well the team did and the excitement surrounding it, but it was also difficult personally because his mother was diagnosed with lung cancer.
During the 1984 playoff run, Cowart was given 2 tickets to each home game, which he turned over to his parents and they shared with other family members through the World Series until the last game, which they attended themselves.
“My mother and father came to game 5 and watched as the Tigers clinched the Series,” Cowart said. “She was a huge Tigers’ fan and that was the last baseball game that she ever went to.”
Not long after the game and season ended, Cowart’s mother lost her battle with cancer and her death was followed by a sister shortly afterward.
“Baseball really helped me get through some very tough times back then,” Cowart said.
Now that he is no longer at every home game watching from the best seat in the house, Cowart said that he still roots for the Tigers and takes his family to games when he can, though it was difficult in the beginning.
“The first five years after I left the Tigers I hated going to games because I was used to being with the players and listening to Sparky talk and it was hard to be away from it during the game,” Cowart said.
He said that also had to make an adjustment after the team moved to Comerica Park in 2000.
“It took me a while to get used to Comerica because I really loved Tiger Stadium and the history that it held,” Cowart said. “But it is a good park and maybe it is better for the game, but whenever I am going to a game I still take Michigan Avenue past the old site because of the memories.”
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected].)