Longtime Braves beat writer got his start at Flyer News in 1990s

Mark Bowman, left, and Atlanta Braves media relations director Brad Hainje stand outside the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018, the year Chipper Jones was inducted.

Mark Bowman, who’s covering wild-card series this week in Atlanta, remains a big Dayton fan

Mark Bowman has experienced the best of times for Dayton Flyers basketball. He attended the Maui Invitational last November and ranks Obi Toppin among the five athletes who have brought him the most joy as a sports fan, right next to Pittsburgh legends Mario Lemieux, Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward and West Virginia quarterback Major Harris.

Bowman also remembers the worst of times for the Flyers. He attended the University of Dayton from 1992-96 when the program won a total of 32 games — or just three more than Toppin and the Flyers won last season.

If there was a standout memory at UD Arena during his four years, it was seeing 1979 UD graduate Dan Patrick return to campus for Midnight Madness in 1994 during the height of his fame as the host of SportsCenter.

“That was one of my greatest thrills, getting to write about Dan Patrick," Bowman said. “That was pretty special.”

Bowman was a sports management major then. He took his first steps into the world of journalism as the sports editor of the Flyer News. In the decades since, his career has taken him all over the country. He has worked as the Atlanta Braves beat writer for MLB.com since the website launched in 2001 and will cover the Braves and Reds in the wild-card series this week at Truist Park in Atlanta.

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Here’s his scouting report on the first playoff matchup between the teams since 1995:

“I think everybody respects the Reds rotation, for sure,” Bowman said Tuesday. “The big question is the Braves offense. It’s pretty exceptional, too. When your starting lineup has (Ronald) Acuna, (Freddie) Freeman and (Marcell) Ozuna, three guys who have handled right-handed pitching very well, I think it all comes down to what Trevor Bauer does (Wednesday).

"This is the best Braves offense I’ve seen since 2003. That team had Andruw (Jones) and Chipper (Jones) and Javy Lopez, who hit 40-plus homer that year, and Gary Sheffield, but they ran into Mark Prior and Kerry Wood (of the Cubs), and now the question is will Bauer and (Luis) Castillo play that role. It’s quite possible. We’ve always said good pitching will beat good offense in the postseason. At the same time, this is a different offense. It is so deep.”

Proud Flyer

Bowman has crossed paths with two former Dayton Flyers pitchers in recent years. Jerry Blevins and Craig Stammen played together with the Washington Nationals in 2014, and Bowman sought them out in the clubhouse to talk about UD that season.

Blevins played in the National League East with the New York Mets for four seasons and saw Bowman and the Braves often. Then in 2019, Blevins moved to the Braves and got to know Bowman even better.

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“He definitely is a proud Flyer,” Blevins said. “We were both very heartbroken with how March Madness ended when COVID hit. He’s so passionate about the Flyers, and to see the possibility of them winning a national championship or just making a huge impact on the national scene and what it would have meant for the program, it was pretty tough.”

In spending a whole season with the Braves, Blevins saw how respected Bowman is. He already recognized the value the writers bring to the game.

“I tend to chat up the writers because I understand the kind of impact they have on our sport as a whole and how we feed off each other,” Blevins said. “It’s a necessary part of baseball. It’s a part of sports in general. The writers help take the game to the people.”

Big scoop

Bowman grew up in Wheeling, W.Va., and met future Dayton coach Jim O’Brien, who was the head coach at Wheeling Jesuit from 1982-87, at a summer basketball camp there when he was a kid. Their paths crossed again at UD as Bowman covered Dayton basketball, football and all the other sports for the student newspaper.

One of Bowman’s claims to fame during his days as the sports editor for the student newspaper was breaking the news of Dayton joining the Atlantic 10 Conference in February 1995.

“I was young, dumb, eager, and I just started making phone calls,” Bowman said. “I would call anybody. I was reading The Sporting News back then, and I called Mike DeCourcy. Now I’m thinking back and saying, ‘I’m calling fellow writers who have no clue who I am and asking, ‘What do you think Dayton’s going to do?'"

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Bowman also called other schools who might have a scoop and connected with Virginia Tech Athletic Director David Braine.

“For some reason, he took a liking to me,” Bowman said. “There was one day in January or early February. I called his office and said, ‘Hey, have you heard anything?’ He said, ‘You didn’t hear this from me.'"

Braine then said Dayton, La Salle and Virginia Tech would join the A-10 the next day.

“I got that,” Bowman said. "We ran with it.”

Dayton Athletic Director Ted Kissell was not happy with Bowman, but his source was correct, and Dayton, of course, has been in the A-10 ever since.

Dream job

That experience taught Bowman about the thrill of breaking a story. However, he didn’t dive right into journalism after college. He left UD in January of 1996 during the second semester of his senior year to take a customer service internship with the Braves, who had won the World Series the previous fall.

Bowman then moved into a position with group and season-ticket sales and corporate sales, staying on that side of the business for five seasons.

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“Then MLB.com was starting in 2001," Bowman said. “I didn’t really know what it was, but I also knew I didn’t want to continue on the business side.”

Bowman didn’t want to work for the website if it was just going to be a PR arm of the Braves and was told it wouldn’t be. He’s glad he made the decision to take the job. He covered home games the first season and started covering home and away games in 2002. He worked as many as 140-150 games per season early in his career and now, in a normal season, covers around 125 per season.

The life of a beat writer is full of long days, but Bowman has also written about 11 playoff teams in 20 seasons and gotten to know numerous Braves legends.

“I covered John Smoltz for eight years,” Bowman said. “I covered Chipper for his last 12. I covered (manager) Bobby Cox for his last 10. And it’s special. Not only are you able to be around guys who were great in the game, but you learn a lot from being around them on a daily basis. I’ll be forever thankful for that opportunity."

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