Fowler ready to contribute on and off the field
Charitable center fielder finds a home in Houston after December trade
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Dexter Fowler could have been anything in life. He's a self-described computer geek, he was a standout basketball player who could have played in college and he has aspirations of being a sports commentator, or even a model.
He drew the attention of Ivy League schools, including Harvard, before he graduated from high school in the Atlanta area. Three days before Fowler was set to leave to attend the University of Miami -- his dream school -- on a baseball scholarship, he signed with the Rockies.
"Baseball called," Fowler said.
Fowler's decision to pursue a career in baseball was rewarded when he reached the Major Leagues two and a half years later. He soon became a fixture in Colorado's lineup with his speed and athleticism and the ability to get on base at a good rate.
After five years with the Rockies, Fowler was traded to the Astros on Dec. 3 for pitcher Jordan Lyles and outfielder Brandon Barnes, giving him a new outlook on baseball. It was only a month later that his Iranian-born wife, Aliya, gave birth to the couple's first child, giving him a new outlook on life.
"A lot of new things, a lot of different changes, but at the same time you've got to take a deep breath," said Fowler, who was introduced to his wife by a friend in 2010. "That's part of life and whatever life has for us, you have to roll with it."
Astros manager Bo Porter had known Fowler for years before he came to Houston and knew he would provide leadership on and off the field.
"His track record of success on the field and, even more importantly, what he brings to our ballclub off the field, will be advantageous as well," Porter said.
Fowler, 27, will hit leadoff and play center field for an Astros team that made him their first big acquisition of a busy winter. He hit .263 last year with 12 homers, 42 RBIs and 19 stolen bases for the Rockies, with an on-base percentage of .369.
As soon as Fowler was acquired, Porter said the outfielder would hit before former All-Stars Jose Altuve and Jason Castro. The Astros struggled to find a leadoff hitter last year, using eight guys, including Robbie Grossman 55 times, Jonathan Villar 36 times, Altuve 33 times and Barnes 23 times.
"Dexter Fowler has established himself as a quality, above-average Major Leaguer, and it's a great acquisition for us," Porter said. "I believe that him being a catalyst at the top of our lineup with Altuve and Castro coming behind him, we have three high productive offensive players we can run out there each and every day."
Fowler has a .365 career on-base percentage, including .389 during his most productive year in 2012. The Astros' .299 on-base percentage last year ranked 29th out of 30 teams, so having Fowler get on base frequently will fill a need.
"Batting leadoff and playing center, that's familiar to me," Fowler said. "I've been doing that my whole career, either hitting first or second. Houston will be a different ballpark and a new area, and we're looking forward to it. The fans have been awesome to us. We're definitely going to miss the fans in Denver, but we'll definitely embrace the fans in Houston."
Fowler and his wife certainly embraced the community while they were with the Rockies and at their home in Salt Lake City. They are both active in charity work, and last offseason he used Twitter to raise about $15,000 for an organization that renders civil legal aid to those in need, such as battered women, homeless veterans and seniors without retirement.
The strong values Fowler believes in are a product of his upbringing to an educator mother who stressed academics and a father who traveled the world as sales rep for Kimberly-Clark. The elder Fowler is now the chief executive officer and president of his own supply company in Atlanta.
"My parents brought me up just to work as hard as you can, get your grades," Fowler said. "I had to get my grades before I could play or do anything."
A devout Christian, Fowler practices tithing, which is giving 10 percent of your salary to the church.
"Our family strongly believes in that," Fowler said. "That's not going to change. Anything I can do to give back, I feel like that's what we're here to do. We're here and put on a platform to do exactly that."
That's true even though he's making $7.35 million this year, he said.
"I believe it's God's before it's anybody else," Fowler said.
In his first week in an Astros uniform, Fowler has looked as comfortable in blue and orange as he did in Rockies black and purple. He carries himself with an easy demeanor and has a contagious smile. It's clear he's at home on the baseball field.
"Every time I get out there, it puts a smile on my face," Fowler said. "My mom used to tell me all the time, she said, 'You have no energy to do anything, but when you get on that baseball field, you're running around.' I live life with no regrets."