GOODYEAR, Ariz — Rick and Mark Stowe returned to work Tuesday. Rick, the home clubhouse manager, and Mark, the visitors clubhouse manager, are the sons of Bernie Stowe.
Bernie died last week after a long illness. He was as beloved a Reds employee as there was. He was associated with the clubhouse for 69 years. His family has gotten an idea of how beloved he was since his death.
“Our family is overwhelmed with the outpouring of love,” Rick said. “It knocked our socks off ... he outpouring ... I can’t even think straight.”
Rick was scrolling through his text messages as he spoke. It was a who’s who list of former Reds - from Hall of Famers like Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Barry Larkin and Tony Perez to role players like Skeeter Barnes and Jack Hannahan.
Players who fall between the two categories reached out as well: Rob Dibble, Chris Sabo, Buddy Bell, Joe Oliver, Ron Robinson, Sam LeCure, Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Todd Frazier, Zack Cozart, J.J. Hoover, Kent Mercker ...
“Bronson was unbelievable through the whole thing,” Rick said.
Sean Casey, Aaron Boone and Hal Morris showed up at the services at Elder High School.
— Sean Casey (@TheMayorsOffice) February 15, 2016
“Casey drove through the snow,” Mark said. “He sent me a video of him driving with cars off the side of the road. Arroyo, Aaron Boone - that these guys thought enough of him to fly in ... When I saw Hal Morris, I cried like a baby. He was crying too.”
Even long forgotten Reds, like Dennis Rasmussen, showed up at the services.
“I was blown away,” Mark said. “You just didn’t expect them.”
Literally hundreds of people called or texted.
“If I printed these, it would just buckle people,” Rick said. “I’ve been blown away. For a guy who was back stage and hung jocks and uniforms to get that much ...
The messages had a theme: I loved that guy. I miss him.
Bench called Rick on several nights.
“He’d say: ‘I’m sitting outside playing this song for your dad,’” Rick said. “It was Toby Keith “Crying for You.”
Deeply saddened to hear about Mr. Stowe's passing. At least he's now in better hands than mine. I'll miss you Bernie pic.twitter.com/97nESOW1it
— Johnny Bench (@Johnny_Bench5) February 10, 2016
The Stowes heard from more than players. Agents, front office people, officials from Major League Baseball, former Reds employees reached out as well.
“I heard from Dusty (Baker) and Dusty’s friends,” Rick said. “(Former Reds assistant GM) Bob Miller. Bob Miller floored me. Every home and visiting clubhouse guy in the league has called me. heard from the ramp guys at Delta. They said: ‘You don’t know what he meant to us. He was so great.’ Truck drivers around the league.
Rick wanted to thank his employers as well.
“I heard from every Castellini and the every Williams,” he said.
In Mark’s and Rick’s absence, the clubhouse guys made up T-shirts with “Bernie” across the chest for players and coaches to wear.
“It’s one thing after another,” Mark said. “It’s hard to describe.”
The Stowes were trying to carrying on Tuesday.
“It’s almost like therapy,” Rick said. “It’s nice to be back to the grind — not that I don’t think about him every second.”
John Fay is freelance sports columnist. This column represents his opinion.