Salem’s BIG Big Leaguer ponders retirement
Former North Salem High star Jed Lowrie says a final decision will come after the first of the year
Jed Lowrie has been in the major leagues for 15 seasons, and in 2018, was an MLB all-star with the Oakland A’s. The switch-hitting Lowrie has a solid .260 batting average lifetime over better than 1100 games, with 430 extra base hits, including 292 doubles. His best season average was .290 in 2013.
Jed’s former coach at North Salem High School—Chris Lee—says Lowrie made everything seem so effortless on the field, earning him the nickname “Smooth.” Lee also says Jed loved the big moment, which is why he “came through in the clutch many times in his career.”
And he did come through time and time again. The former North Salem High School standout—a first team all-league infielder for the Vikings—was also was a very dependable major league infielder, playing second, third and shortstop at one time or another during his career.
But after being released by the Athletics this past August at the age of 38, Lowrie sees the handwriting on the wall. Although he was not picked-up by any major league team in preparation for this coming post season, Jed isn’t declaring his retirement just yet, but is still making serious plans for the next chapter of his life.
Lowrie and his family—wife Milessa (pronounced my-less-uh) and their two children—have moved into a home north of Lake Oswego, in anticipation of just that circumstance. But he says any formal announcement either way will not happen until at least January. Still, he says, he is being realistic.
“I am not living in an alternate reality,” says Jed. “I know where I stand.”
But there is no indication that Lowrie is worried about what might happen next with his baseball future. He and his family went with his parents—who still reside in Salem—to the Oregon State Fair a few weeks ago.
“Mom worked for the Oregon State University Extension Service for 30 years and ran the 4-H exhibits at the Polk County Fair for the majority of those years,” says Lowrie.
“She is still involved with judging at the state fair and wanted to show the kids the exhibits.”
Jed’s father was involved in FFA, and also has a continued interest in the farm animals being presented in the barns on the east side of the fairgrounds. So the kids got more than expensive amusement park rides and fair food as part of their experience.
Lowrie wants to have more of those family bonding times with his kids—a third grade girl and kindergarten boy.
“I want to be part of my kid’s activities,” declares Jed.
“My schedule as a professional athlete makes me miss so much. I take two weeks off at season’s end, and am right back into preparation for spring training.”
What will determine his playing future will likely happen after the first of the year, when teams reach out to free agent veterans like Lowrie. How much interest he receives will help Jed determine what happens next.
But he hasn’t been waiting by the phone. Instead, Lowrie has been quite busy, preparing for life outside of the dugout.
He has become an investor in the Portland-based Haitian Restaurant called kann (lower case k is correct—and pronounced “con”). Lowrie describes himself as a silent investor with owner and James Beard Award winning chef Gregory Gourdet.
It is an exciting investment to Jed.
“It’s a fun project with a guy who is very dynamic,” he says with marked enthusiasm.
“He has built a brand for himself. It’s been entertaining watching him compete on shows like Top Chef and Iron Chef.”
Jed and Milessa recently celebrated a belated birthday for his bride at kann.
“The food is great,” says Lowrie. “Everything is wood-fired, which adds another layer of flavor.”
The Lowries are also involved with the “baseball-Iifestyle” apparel company called Baseballism. The Portland-based firm has survived and thrived despite a major hit from the pandemic.
Owner Travis Chock, a Hawaiian native, had to shutdown 37 retail outlets—mostly near major league baseball parks—due to the worldwide COVID epidemic, and had to limit sales to online only.
Since then, Baseballism has rallied behind strong internet purchases and resumed in-person sales. And the company now has a license with MLB to develop products for purchase. Lowrie has invested his own money in the company, and serves as an unofficial consultant.
“I only consult by providing my baseball knowledge, but have enjoyed learning about the business as well,” admits Jed with a small laugh.
“They have an amazing creative team and everyone is passionate about baseball… they put out great stuff.”
Finally, Lowrie wants to stay connected to baseball in some dynamic way, shape or form. Specifically, he is very enthusiastic about ongoing efforts to bring a major league club to the Portland-Metro area.
“MLB knows there is a well-organized effort to bring a franchise to Portland,” says Lowrie.
“A lot of factors go into choosing a location for a potential new franchise. I am biased and think it (Portland) would be the perfect fit.”
In fact, Jed envisions himself as a good salesman for the MLB franchise.
“I would love to be involved in an MLB franchise at a high level,” says Lowrie.
“Being born and raised in Oregon, and playing the game at a high level for a long time, I think I would be in a unique position to help ensure a future franchise would be successful on the field and in the community.”
Jed’s wife, Milessa, also has career plans that have been put on hold for the past several years.
A former United States diplomat—Milessa has worked with Jed on setting up youth baseball camps in Columbia and Nicaragua. She has run a consulting firm while raising the kids during the major league season.
Milessa also serves on the board of several companies and non-profits, and was just appointed to the Stanford Athletics Board.
“She (Milessa) has all sorts of great projects she’s working on,” says Lowrie.
“I am excited about everything she is going to do.”
Milessa was just one year behind Lowrie at Stanford, but graduated before him due to his being drafted 45th overall by the Red Sox his junior year in 2005. They dated on and off in college.
The Lowries got back together later in 2008 when Milessa was finishing graduate work in New Jersey, and Jed was playing baseball in the minors. They married in November of 2011, about the same time that Lowrie finished up his political science degree.
“I told her leading up to the wedding that she was marrying a high school jock,” jokes Lowrie.
The Lowries will be working together with a local group—the Oregon Sports Angels—an organization aimed at investing in start-up companies in the state that are directly or indirectly related to sports, with special emphasis on apparel, sports equipment and related items.
With all these projects on the table, Jed seems ready to call it a career. But he is waiting for one last opportunity to take the field for a major league team. Either way, he has no regrets about his time in baseball.
“A lot of people would give up everything to have a 15-year career like mine,” admits Lowrie.
“I had a strong 2021, but had some back luck this year, and my numbers weren’t as good. While the odds of me getting another opportunity might be slim, I’d like to see if they exist.”
All that said, Jed says once it happens, retirement will take some getting used to.
“I am 38, and have been playing since I was 4,” he says. “When you suddenly stop doing something you’ve done for 34 years, there will be a transition period. It will be strange for sure.”
Strange for Lowrie, and strange for major league fans so used to seeing him on the field for the past 15 seasons.
But as Jed keeps emphasizing, it will be a new season for him. One without a glove and a uniform.
“It will be an adjustment, but I have a lot of exciting stuff ahead.”
Regardless of what happens in a few months, we can all collectively say “good luck, Jed.”