Linfield College and its baseball program is mourning the loss of Arnold Owens, a 1954 graduate and longtime fan and supporter.
Owens died unexpectedly Saturday, May 25, in Appleton, Wis., just hours after Linfield defeated Southern Maine 10-1 in the winners bracket of the NCAA Division III Finals. It was his third trip to Appleton in six years in support of the Wildcats.
Perhaps most visibly, Mr. Owens displayed his love for Wildcat Athletics through his regular attendance at Linfield sporting events and practice sessions.
He paid special attention to the Linfield baseball program, attending practices on a near daily basis while developing first-name relationships with many of the players over the years. He was known to travel to distant baseball games in Idaho, Arizona and California.
“If there’s a game, I’m usually there, no matter what it is,” Owens told the Linfield Review in 2008. “I even come to practice in bad weather.”
He earned his bachelor’s degree at Linfield in 1954 followed by a master’s degree in education in 1958.
A football scholarship enabled Owens to enroll at Linfield in the fall of 1950. But unusual circumstances caused the scholarship to be switched from football to baseball.
As a freshman, Owens was dismissed from the football team by Hall of Fame coach and athletic director Paul Durham after he arrived to his dormitory room 15 minutes past curfew.
After losing his football roster spot and scholarship, he sought advice from baseball coach Roy Helser, with whom he had a class.
“I’m not sure I can stay in school without that scholarship,” Owens told Helser.
“That’s alright,” Helser replied, “we’ll just change your scholarship to baseball.”
In 1953, Owens was hitting .382 from the left side of the plate during the nonconference schedule. But an injury cut short a promising junior season.
A first baseman, Owens went on to earn all-conference honors the following spring in 1954 while helping the Wildcats to a 19-2 record, one of the best marks in program history.
In support of the college, Owens served in various volunteer capacities, including a term as the president of the Quarterback Club and service to the Linfield Athletics Hall of Fame selection committee. He was a regular and generous contributor to the TopCat Club, the annual giving fund that enables the athletic department to offset expenses not covered by the college budget.
He is survived by his wife, Marilyn, who accompanied him to Appleton for this week’s tournament.