Stanford's Stowers plays with Lyon's legacy in mind

Top Draft prospect welcomes adversity after death of longtime friend

February 13th, 2019
Draft prospect Kyle Stowers with his longtime friend Jason Lyon, who passed away in 2015.

Fighting through adversity is the key to success in baseball, and when that adversity inevitably hits, Kyle Stowers has the perfect reminder to keep everything in perspective.

Stowers, who is No. 34 on MLB Pipeline's list of the Top 50 2019 Draft Prospects, simply needs to look at his right wrist, where there's a black bracelet with white text that reads #LyonHearted on one side and Jehovah-Rapha -- which translates to "the Lord who heals" in Hebrew -- on the other.

#LyonHearted is a reference to Jason Lyon, Stowers' longtime friend who passed away on Oct. 15, 2015, when they were seniors at Christian High School in El Cajon, California, from DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma), a rare, inoperable brain tumor. The median survival range is eight-to-11 months.

"Just a reminder of what #LyonHearted is," Stowers said of his bracelet. "You're going to go through struggles, and it's how you respond to them. His faith in God, and Jesus is what got him through it. It's just a reminder for me that no matter what I go through, to welcome adversity and have courage through it."

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Not only did Lyon have courage through adversity, he thrived and even went so far as to call cancer the "best thing that has ever happened to [him]" as it provided him a platform, allowing him to be an inspiration to others.

"Cancer is honestly the worst word in the English language, but it's my favorite word right now," Lyon said on July 16, 2015, just weeks after he was diagnosed. "It gave me what nothing else in life has ever given me. It showed me who I am. … It's shaped me, it's molded me into the man that God wants me to be."

Just as Lyon inspired so many others, he has motivated Stowers, too, helping him push through rough patches.

"To see someone so strong fighting through adversity, if he can call that the best thing in his life, I should be able to handle an 0-for-4," Stowers said.

And struggles came early for Stowers at Stanford.

After being named the San Diego Union-Tribune Student-Athlete of the Year in 2016 and hitting a combined .387 with a .493 on-base percentage as a junior and senior in high school, Stowers hit just .103 with a .205 slugging percentage over 19 games as a freshman.

"He's a good story of perseverance," David Esquer, Stanford's head coach, said. "He didn't have a highly productive freshman year, which is fine. Not all college baseball players can step on a college baseball field and be a force. It took him a little time and some patience, and last year he had a breakout year."

In 58 games, Stowers hit .286/.383/.510 with 10 homers and 42 RBIs. The 6-foot-3 left-handed outfielder then went on to hit .326 with six home runs in 34 games in the Cape Cod League.

Although Stowers, who has drawn comparisons to and , still has some swing and miss to his game and struggles with consistency at times, his big sophomore season considerably raised his draft stock and put his name on several preseason watch lists.

"It's great that his success this summer was so great for his confidence," Esquer said. "I think it really solidified in his brain what everyone else thought about him, which is this kid has a chance to be a prime Major League player and a premium pick."

Playing with increased confidence isn't the only change Stowers has made heading into the 2019 season. After donning the No. 6 on his jersey over the past two seasons, Stowers has opted to switch to No. 37 for what may be his last year at Stanford.

"Jason wore No. 37 in high school," Stowers said. "My number in high school was always four and I imagined myself switching to four once [Cubs first-round Draft pick] Nico [Hoerner] left, but then I figured if I was going to switch, I felt like switching to 37 felt right."

The new number, along with the bracelet, will help Stowers keep everything in perspective throughout the season, which is shaping up to be an important one for the potential early-round Draft pick.

Stowers has already begun to notice some of the hype and increased attention that comes along with a player entering his junior season, but for now he knows there's a long way to go until the Draft begins on June 3.

"The fact that people like the way I play the game and like what I have to offer, it's great," Stowers said. "I don't overthink it. It's an honor and it's fun. As far as rankings or preseason honors, it's so cool to be recognized. It's a great honor, but at the end of the year, it'll mean a little more. It's cool stuff now, but there's the whole season to be played."