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November 5, 2008 at 3:53 PM

Rowland-Smith’s new “home” away from home

Caught up with Mariners starting pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith yesterday, just before he embarked on a lengthy vacation this morning to both Hong Kong and his native Australia. Rowland-Smith has a sister who works in Hong Kong, so he planned to take her up on a longstanding invitation to visit with her and her new boyfriend, who he’s yet to meet.
The really interesting part is where Rowland-Smith was leaving from. He’s actually been mostly in Seattle since the season ended. The big reason is that he has decided to make the Emerald City his full-time home (on this side of the planet, anyway). He recently bought a three-level townhouse in one of the city’s neighborhoods (I’ll keep the exact location private), with a brand new deck that overlooks some water. He just finished moving in. When I spoke to him, he’d yet to unpack all the moving boxes.
While it isn’t unheard of for players to actually live in Seattle, most of them prefer the warmer weather of places like Arizona, California, Florida, or Texas. But not Rowland-Smith, who, as many of you have probably figured out by now, is a special kind of athlete and human being. For one, he blogs. Not for the money. But to help out a friend’s business and get to know the fans better. His father, a celebrity fitness guru in Australia, taught him long ago about keeping things real, treating people right and giving back to the fans and the sport that made him well-known in the first place.
Rowland-Smith has lived in several U.S. cities and towns as a professional baseball player. He says he enjoyed many of the stops. But when it came to picking a home, Seattle made the most sense. For one thing, his girlfriend, who will be living in the townhome with him, is from the area. For another, he says Seattle — and other parts of Washington — “reminds me a lot of being in Australia.
“Just attitudes,” he added. “People seem to be open-minded and worldly in Washington. And also, there’s just a lot of little things that remind me of home.”
A “home” away from home, I suppose you’d call it. Rowland-Smith drove from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. this morning for his direct flight to Hong Kong this afternoon. After that trip, he’ll head to Australia.
“It’s been so long since I’ve been back home, I just can’t wait,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
He’s looking forward to next season as well, when he’ll get a shot at the starting rotation coming out of spring training. Rowland-Smith has yet to meet new GM Jack Zduriencik, but, “from what I’ve heard from people in the front office, it’s a very positive thing for us.”
Rowland-Smith says he has a feeling, from stints in the minors the past few seasons, that the Mariners’ farm system is not as strong as it once was when he first broke into pro ball. Zduriencik, he added, should be a positive development on that front.
“Right now, I’m just worrying about myself and getting ready for the season,” he said. “I’ll be working out when I’m back in Australia, getting ready for next year. I can’t wait.”
Many Mariners fans — some of whom are now Rowland-Smith’s neighbors — likely share that sentiment as they wait to see whether he can repeat his strong finish to the 2008 season.

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