Chris Nowak is the eighth person affiliated with the baseball program to be inducted into the Upstate Athletics Hall of Fame.
Nowak was a member of the baseball program from 2002-04, leaving after his junior season upon being drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 19th Round of the 2004 Major League Baseball Draft.
Nowak came to Upstate in 2002 and under his leadership the program began to flourish. Head Coach Matt Fincher spent his first years as coach bringing in talented players with character and commitment to the team. Nowak and his teammates served as the final pieces in the transformation of the program. When Nowak finished his playing career in 2004, he and his teammates had built the foundation on which the future baseball teams currently rest.
It didn’t take long for Nowak to make his presence felt at Upstate, then-USC Spartanburg. He hit a team-best .380 with a team-high and single-season school record 82 hits, 16 doubles, a team-high five triples, four home runs and a team-high 40 RBI en route to earning Peach Belt Conference Freshman of the Year honors in 2002. He also spearheaded a resurgence in the program. The season before he came to the University, the team won 12 games in 2001. In his freshman season, the team won 21 games.
A year later, Nowak helped lead the team to 28 wins and the program’s first winning record in 12 years. He hit a team-best .362 batting average and team-highs with 75 hits, 18 doubles and 45 RBI. As a junior, Nowak led the squad to another winning record, but an eligibility issue caused the team to forfeit a number of games and lowered the record to below .500. Still, Nowak had a standout season and earned all-conference and all-region honors after posting team-highs with a .387 batting average, 75 hits, 42 runs and 19 doubles.
Nowak ended his career with 232 hits and the program’s all-time hits record. While three players who played four years in the program have surpassed that total since, Nowak ranks fourth all-time in hits and owns the career record with 53 doubles. He ranks fifth all-time with a .376 batting average, 121 RBI and 10 triples. Defensively, he was solid as well and ranks fifth with 325 assists. He also owns the program’s career mark with a 27-game hitting streak. In addition to his play on the field, he was an exemplary student and earned three Peach Belt Presidential Scholar Athlete honors.
Following his junior season, Tampa Bay drafted him in the 19th round of the 2004 Major League Baseball Draft and he left to pursue his professional career. He quickly rose through the Rays’ organization and was a High Class-A All-Star selection by Baseball America in 2006. He was promoted to Double-A Montgomery, where he led the Biscuits to the 2007 Southern League championship and was named the Most Valuable Player of the Championship Series. He was promoted to Triple-A Durham in 2008 and also spent time in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, playing Triple-A ball with the Nashville Sounds. He currently plays for the York Revolution in the Atlantic League and was the co-MVP of the league after leading York to the Atlantic League championship last year. He currently has an offer to tryout for the Yokohama Bay Stars in Japan.
A native of Waukesha, Wisc., Nowak and his wife, Megan, have been married for five years. The couple lives in Waukesha where Megan is a kindergarten teacher. In the off-season, Nowak gives hitting lessons to area youth.