Grieving loss of his wife, Adam Loewen savours opportunity with Canada at WBC

Watch as Canadian reliever Adam Loewen strikes out Kyle Tucker in the bottom of the sixth inning at the World Baseball Classic, in what could be the 38-year old's last-ever appearance on the mound.

MESA, Ariz. – Adam Loewen still had some baseball left in him after the 2018 season but there was no way he was going to do it again. Two years earlier, his wife Lynda was diagnosed with breast cancer while five months pregnant with the couple’s second child. And though she’d received some good news that summer while he was with the independent New Britain Bees, fighting the disease had taken a toll. With two young kids to look after, he needed to be home.

“That’s what I ended up doing,” says Loewen. “I completely shut off baseball. I wouldn’t watch it. Kind of isolated myself from the baseball world because it was tough. I didn’t want to do it, but I knew I had to do it and I don’t regret it. Those are decisions you have to make as a family man. I’m glad I did.”

The Loewens packed all the life they could into the next three years.

They moved from Scottsdale, Ariz., to Bothwell, Wash., and enjoyed the outdoors. They watched Lucas and his baby sister Lucy grow up. They spent time with family and friends. And they lived through what Lynda called “scanxiety,” the angst over what the regular tests of her body might reveal, sharing the swings between the cancer’s remission and its eventual spread.

She died on Dec. 10, 2021. She was 37.

“We had years where she was healthy and the cancer wasn’t showing,” says Loewen. “She was just diagnosed and getting her immune system boosted so we had a lot of quality time in there. And then the last three months were really, really bad.

“She was a strong, strong devoted mother and strong in her faith,” he continues. “She believed to the very end she was going to be healed. It didn’t work out that way, but she had that kind of faith. And she was a battler. She went through it with a very positive attitude. It was tough at home at times, but she made the best out of it and did the best with the time she had.”

Fifteen months later, Loewen, Lucas and Lucy, now eight and six, “have rebounded in a way that we can honour her memory and continue to live our lives.”

Part of that is the unexpected opportunity for Loewen, 38, to suit up with the Canadian national team again at the World Baseball Classic.

Loewen delivers an RBI single against the United States in the sixth inning during a World Baseball Classic baseball game in 2013. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

The last time he pitched competitively, Lucas was a toddler and Lucy was a baby. They only know him as the stay-at-home dad who drops them off at school and takes care of them in the house. As much as pitching again is good for Loewen, it’s good for the kids, too.

On Wednesday, when he took the mound for the first time in 4½ years during the seventh inning of Canada’s 11-7 loss to the Chicago Cubs, they were in the stands at Sloan Park watching.

“I think it’ll be good for them to see me doing something that makes me happy,” says Loewen. “They’ve been through a lot and I think it will be good for all of us just to have a good trip here and they can see me compete at the highest level. That’s part of the reason why we came down here.”

Loewen described being back on the bump as an “almost out of body” experience. The big velocity that made him the No. 4 pick in the 2002 draft is long gone, obviously, and he was clearly feeling for rhythm after dropping his arm angle, struggling to locate at 84 m.p.h. He allowed three runs on three hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning with a strikeout.

“I just felt different than I thought it would,” he says. “But it felt good to get back out there. That’s what I’m here for and I’ll be better off for it the next time out.”

Loewen (right) and Jeff Francis raise a Canadian flag over their heads in Vancouver after both were first-round draft picks in the 2002 MLB Draft. (Richard Lam/CP)

How manager Ernie Whitt choses to use him once the Classic begins is unclear.

After the game, he wondered if Loewen, who’d done some training at Driveline in the leadup to the WBC, perhaps needed to take off a bit more velocity to better disrupt timing. They don’t have much time to decide on next steps with the tournament opening Sunday.

No matter how things play out, Loewen is savouring every last bit of what he expects will be his final go at the game.

He didn’t always do that during a remarkable career that included 3.2 shutout innings against the United States as a 19-year-old at the 2006 Classic, and three separate stints in the majors, as a pitcher, hitter and then pitcher again, so he’s making sure to now, even joking about the imminent end of his days on the field.

“I would totally keep playing. I’d find a way if a team came calling – but no one’s going to,” Loewen says with a chuckle. “I would never have laughed about that before. That would eat at me.”

The years at home with Lynda changed his outlook about himself, about life.

“I learned that when things are tough, I tend to isolate. I’ve learned to ask for help. To talk to people. Don’t take on everything so personally,” says Loewen. “I’m just learning to be completely different than my personality, which is a good thing. I need to grow. I’m always going to be naturally quiet and reserved, but I’m not afraid to ask for help any more, because otherwise I just wouldn’t be able to make it without the help of my family. …

I’m here because I get to (be) and it’s an extreme privilege,” he continues. “I enjoy it more. It’s more exciting. I’m cherishing it more and trying to take everything in as much as I can. There were years when I played that months would go by and I just wouldn’t enjoy it. That perspective has changed. Not everybody gets do this. We’re a small group of people that get to put Canada across their chest and play for their country on an international stage. I really didn’t think I’d have another opportunity to play once I packed it in. This is just icing on the cake.”

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