Before Chris Nowak, 30, signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks this winter, three or four teams showed interested in signing him. But following his March 19 release from the Arizona Diamondbacks in spring training, Nowak decided he would retire from playing.
“I’ve been chasing my dream for 10 years now, at least professionally,” Nowak said. “It was time for me to say, ‘I need to be a good husband again. I need to be a good dad.’”
Nowak and his wife, Megan, celebrated the birth of their daughter, Estelle, in February.
“I have nothing but great memories of York and the fun we had — and I think that’s why we won,” Nowak said. “I literally walked into the clubhouse the first day, and it felt like I had been there all season. … It was so easy to play again.
“It’s not like I went out trying to impress people I didn’t know. That was the nice thing about York, you get to know everybody — from top to bottom.”
Nowak plans to return to school and earn his degree. A physical education major when he left school to pursue a professional baseball career, Nowak plans to pursue a business degree.
He considered a return to York, but after spending almost the entire year (he played winter ball) away from his wife and newborn daughter, he couldn’t justify another season away from his family.
“I know going back to York I’d have so much fun,” Nowak said. “It was the reason I rekindled my fire for the game.”
But the pay — capped at $3,000 a month for the Atlantic League’s highest paid players — couldn’t coax him to leave his family.
“Even the league maximum is not enough for me to say, ‘I’m going away from my family for six months,’” Nowak said.
The decision ends a roller-coaster year for Nowak. He broke his own Revs record for homers in a single season, hitting 34 last year. After playing winter ball in Venezuela, he had an opportunity to play in the storied Caribbean Series. He opted to return home to see his wife, and the decision proved to be important as he was able to see the birth of his daughter when his wife went into labor five weeks before her scheduled due date.
Nowak hired a new agent, and several teams had interest in signing him before spring training, but the Diamondbacks swooped in to sign him with a late offer. Admittedly “not locked in” yet at spring training, Nowak homered and doubled in about 20 at bats but said he did not play his best. He didn’t believe his release had anything to do with talent so much as it did with age and the fact he was a free agent signed in the offseason. Released March 19, Nowak noticed the game has changed.
“If you don’t have big-league time by your late 20s, it’s hard for a team to not give their own guys (draft picks) a shot (over minor league free agents),” Nowak said.
“I’m not their guy, and I’m OK with it.”
Sounding at ease with his decision to retire, Nowak said the only way he could consider a return to York is if he and his family lived in the city — like teammate Corey Thurman. But the Wisconsin native is comfortable walking away from the game on a high note — putting together arguably his best season in 2012.
“Coming off last season, and the way I feel about family, it feels right,” Nowak said.