PREP PLAYOFFS

Balancing Act

Cowden parents have tough choice with both kids in state title games at same time


Mail Tribune
June 06, 2014

The dilemma is universal for soccer moms, baseball dads and any-and-every-event grandparents. Multiple kids mean multiple sports, and that means multiple headaches trying to manage time, see every play and not run the minivan out of gas.

In this regard, parents Rob and Brande Cowden are not unique. Their daughter Megan plays softball, their son Tate plays baseball. Naturally, their schedules conflict.

Still, this week is different.

Megan is on the North Medford softball team that will play for the Class 6A state championship. On Saturday. At 10 a.m. In Corvallis.

Tate is on the North Medford baseball team vying for the state title. Also on Saturday, also at 10 a.m., but 30 miles away in Keizer.

If ever there was a desire to be in two places at once, this would be it.

Since that isn't possible, Mom and Dad will be in Corvallis as the Black Tornado, with the help of Megan, a senior and the starting third baseman, goes after its third consecutive crown.

It's more agonizing than one might think.

"I woke up at 3 this morning feeling so bad for Tate," Brande said Wednesday, one day removed from both teams winning home semifinal contests. "He understands; he knows; he's a good kid. But it's still tough. You want to be there for your kids at all times."

Her voice quivered slightly.

"It's a tough one," she said.

Juggling time is not new to the family, for while the kids played, the dad coached.

Rob coached baseball and football at Eagle Point, his alma mater, for 15 years, including five as the head baseball coach. He stepped down because he "was going to miss all Megan's stuff."

Megan played basketball and softball for the Eagles, while Tate, who is a sophomore, sticks to baseball.

Rob actually returned to coaching last year when his schedule opened, albeit under unfortunate circumstances. Megan broke a bone in her foot during a PE class as a junior and missed the remainder of the basketball season and the entire softball campaign.

Before she could return for her senior year, Rob landed a job as a counselor at North Medford.

Because of his kids' involvement in athletics, he and Brande kept private the fact he applied and was interviewed for position.

"I didn't want them to get caught up in anything or people talking," said Rob, "so we kept it hush-hush."

Many things were considered as he weighed the opportunity, he said.

Sports?

"I'm not gonna lie and say there was no consideration there," said Rob, "but that was lower on the list."

As a senior, Megan had a choice. Go to North Medford or stay at Eagle Point. It wasn't easy, she allowed, but she's happy with the outcome.

With her swan song looming, she was reflective about playing for head coach Mike Mayben and his staff and with her teammates.

"It's a little harder for me than my brother because it's my last game on the field with my amazing teammates," she said. "It was too short for me, to transfer my senior year. It was a blessing, and I'm very happy."

Rob and Brande talked with the children prior to the spring season and said that because Megan was a senior, her games would get priority when conflicts arose. They were fortunate that the teams' fields are adjacent to each other.

That's not the case for this one.

"I'd like for them to be there (Saturday)," said Tate, "but her last game is more important."

The situation is hardest on his parents, he added.

"My parents kind of have pressure on their shoulders because both of us are playing," he said, "but me and my sister, we're thinking it's just a game. We just want to have fun and win."

Megan's role with the Black Tornado was, at first, cloudy.

"We were totally confused," said Mayben. "We stuck her in the outfield for a little while, but that was a big mistake because she was the best third baseman we had."

Megan has a .925 fielding percentage. She bats second in the order and is hitting .256 — .333 with runners in scoring position — and has 18 RBIs and 12 runs.

Tate hasn't had as big of a role with the baseball team, getting in 22 games, good for 26 at-bats. He's hitting .115.

A second baseman, he sometimes fills in when starter Colton Westfall goes to the mound. In the 4-0 semifinal win over Tualatin, Tate's single in the third inning led to the Black Tornado's first run. He gave way to pinch runner Ryan Sutton, who scored on an Austin Zavala hit.

"He's progressing and made a lot of improvements this spring, offensively and defensively," said North Medford baseball head coach Brett Wolfe. "I look for him to do big things for us in the future. He's going to be a big part of our program for the next two years."

There are no guarantees he'll play in another state championship, but there will be lots of other games.

"For two more years, we get to take in all we can with him," said Rob, "and watch him enjoy his time on the diamond."

When the softball game ends Saturday, there will be another pressing matter. North Medford's graduation is at 4:30 p.m., and the Cowdens will head straight home to watch Megan walk.

Her dad has a part in that, too. Rob is a row leader and will escort a half-dozen seniors, four of them softball players, one of them his daughter.

There would be nothing better, said Megan, than to do that with a state-championship medal in hand, a treasure she would happily give her parents.

"The support they gave me throughout the year was tremendous," she said. "Definitely, it would go out to them. Words can't describe how supportive they are, and how much I love them, and how happy I am they were so supportive of me and my decision to come here and things like that.

"The team gets the trophy, my parents get the credit."

But first, they get one more chance to cheer her on.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com