Colton Cowser could tell the little girl sitting in on his training session was unsure of the situation. Cowser has worked with John Trejo, a strength trainer in Houston, since his senior year of high school.

But Trejo’s daughter, just 5 years old, isn’t usually present. And when she was that one night last offseason, her guard was up, shy around the tall baseball player who would soon shoot up prospect rankings and approach the upper echelon of the sport.

Cowser has a way to disarm, though. It comes off in casual conversation between his peers. But when he needed an extra advantage inside the gym he spends so much time in during the winter, he turned to the auxiliary cord. Cowser queued up the playlist from “Frozen,” the hit Disney film, and trusted that the power of Elsa would draw the child out.

It worked on Trejo’s daughter.

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It also worked on Cowser.

“He’s singing more than her,” Trejo remembered with a laugh.

That wasn’t a surprise to Trejo, who has known Cowser since he was 17. Even then, in late high school, Cowser was different than many of the other athletes with whom Trejo works.

Cowser has the unique ability to straddle a line to perfection, with one foot in the hyper-competitive state of mind necessary to become a professional athlete while the other is firmly planted in an area that reminds himself — and everyone within earshot — that this is just a game.

That is, it should be fun.

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Cowser wants to win, wants to improve daily. He’s done that in the two years he’s been a member of Baltimore’s organization, and on Wednesday he made his major league debut with the Orioles against the New York Yankees.

But Cowser has never allowed the pressures of performing at a high level wash away the character his teammates have grown to love.

When he first experienced a slump last year playing for High-A Aberdeen, his calm, largely unchanged demeanor became the model for how others on the team should navigate through struggles. When he’s still catching his breath between sets with Trejo, Cowser will gasp out whatever pops into his mind. When he’s away from the field, his curiosity leads him all over, with a camera his latest craze.

And when the Disney soundtrack comes on, he’ll sing along with a 5-year-old, making her feel welcome around all the big folks in her father’s gym.

“I don’t know if he ever goes to serious, honestly,” Jordan Westburg said. “I think that’s probably what makes him so good, is he’s able to stay pretty light no matter if he’s having success or failing. He keeps it light. He keeps it loose. I don’t know, I can’t see in the mind of Colton Cowser. It’s pretty hard to get in there, and it could be a scary place, but to me it seems he’s always able to brush things off. He’s always able to have fun, no matter what’s going on.”

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There are few Orioles prospects who reach High-A Aberdeen and immediately prosper. The deep fences in left-center and right-center at Leidos Field in Aberdeen limits some hitters’ power potential, and athletic outfielders can track down deep line drives.

When Connor Norby, Coby Mayo and Cowser arrived at Leidos Field at the beginning of the 2022 season, they experienced it firsthand. For the first time in their baseball careers, hitting was difficult. The .300-some averages they’d experienced in high school or college sunk into the .200s.

In his 63 games for the IronBirds, Cowser hit .258. Mayo hit .251 in 68 games, and Norby hit .237 in 49 games. But the latter two learned something from the former, and it really hit home when Norby walked into the batting cages in Aberdeen to find Cowser at the tee.

To hear Norby tell it, Cowser wore a blindfold over his eyes. Cowser insists he only had his eyes closed. However he did it, Norby watched and scratched his head as Cowser swung blindly at the tee.

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His first two hacks throttled the tee and missed the ball entirely. Cowser laughed at the absurdity of his latest tactic, although Norby could tell he was serious about this, too.

“I can’t use words like that, but it was mostly like, ‘What the heck are you doing right now?’” Norby recalled. “But I think he had a couple hits that night, so there was probably someone in the cage the next day trying to do the same thing, honestly.”

It was a lighthearted attempt from Cowser to remind himself to trust his eyes at the plate. When he could see the ball, he could hit the ball. When he was blindfolded, the whole process became nearly impossible. Perhaps he didn’t need the batting cage exercise to prove the point, but the laughs it drew were important, too.

Cowser isn’t a class clown. There is a side to him, though, that spouts what he’s thinking without much forethought.

“I think it’s just kind of how my brain works,” Cowser said. “If I have something to say, it’s a bad habit, I interrupt people quite a bit. But, it’s like, I don’t want to forget what I was thinking.”

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The tendency helps to create a loose clubhouse atmosphere, and most of the players around Cowser have their own favorite memories of Cowser being Cowser.

Gunnar Henderson, who lived with Cowser, Adley Rutschman and Kyle Stowers during spring training, remembers how Cowser returned with a llama balloon for Stowers’ fiancé's birthday. With his camera, Cowser took a week’s worth of photos of Henderson and his girlfriend around Florida. Henderson and Cowser build Legos together. Cowser came home this spring with a floating chipping green for their pool, and he and his roommates spent ample time practicing their short game from the edge of the water onto the float.

“He’s one of a kind,” Terrin Vavra said.

There are also the thought-provoking conversations that seemingly come out of left field — and sometimes literally do, if that’s where Cowser is playing that night.

With Double-A Bowie last year, a lively conversation began with a blurted idea from Cowser.

“We were talking about global warming or something,” Cowser said. “I was like, what if we just attach the Earth to a bunch of rocket ships and pull it slightly away from the sun? We ended up talking about that for like two hours, and whether or not that would actually work. We came to a conclusion it would not work. We’re in a good spot right now. Just because, scientifically, who knows what the hell would happen?”

“That’s one of his all-time best right there,” Joey Ortiz said.


Norby used to tease Cowser — and still does, about many things — but not about the weight room any longer. As a senior in high school, Cowser didn’t have much on his 6-foot-2 frame. He still didn’t during his time at Sam Houston State or during his first full season as a professional.

“I was like, ‘Do you know what a curl is? A tricep? A bench press? Anything?’” Norby said. “He’s like, ‘I run a lot.’”

Cowser still does, yet he took a greater focus this offseason into his workouts with Trejo. There was still plenty of time to sing the “Frozen” soundtrack, but in between songs Cowser increased his power output and added muscle.

He knew he was close to a major league breakthrough, Trejo said, and it was apparent in every session.

“Just knowing what he needs to do to prepare to play 150, 160 games,” Trejo said. “He took that step. He got stronger. The workouts were much more intent, because now he knows … what he needs to do to stay on the field.”

Cowser said he added nine to 10 pounds of muscle this winter and entered spring training at 215 pounds.

He didn’t lose a step in the outfield or on the base paths, though. With Trejo, as he ran on a treadmill that measures power production, what impressed his long-time trainer most was how long Cowser could maintain his maximum output.

Instead of three seconds, Cowser could remain at his maximum power output on that treadmill for five to six seconds, which “is a big jump at max power,” Trejo said.

Entering the winter, Cowser said he wanted to check the boxes of improving his speed, power and stamina. On top of it all, he hoped to do it in a way that would allow him to stay healthy throughout a full season.

“You kind of saw that flip switch, because now he knows how he’s supposed to feel in July, August, September,” Trejo said. “It’s not the college season where there’s 50, 60 games. So that switch definitely flipped this offseason. I mean, it was the best offseason that we’ve had.”


Cowser could hardly contain his grin, even before Triple-A Norfolk manager Buck Britton told him anything worth smiling about.

As Britton has done plenty over the last two seasons, he called the top prospect into his office. A hidden camera recorded the whole exchange, starting with Cowser’s smirk and a short laugh that quickly transformed into the words he has dreamt of for so long.

“You’re going to the show, brother,” Britton said.

Again, Cowser laughed, then clapped his hands. The smile was firmly placed on his face — there was no need to contain it anymore.

“You think they’ll like ‘Star Wars’ up there?” Britton asked. Cowser nodded. He did. He knows they will, actually, because he’s already been around so many of those guys. He’ll link up with Rutschman and Westburg and Henderson — players who have a firsthand appreciation for the goofiness Cowser can bring to a clubhouse.

Just last week, Britton’s message to Westburg was about as different than the one to Cowser as can be. That’s because the players are on completely different wavelengths. Westburg hardly seemed moved at all by the news he was joining the Orioles, although he later said the video looks worse than the internal emotions coursing through him.

For Cowser, there’s little he keeps internal. His love for “Star Wars” is pronounced (he bought an R2-D2 Lego set to build during spring training), he ponders the possibilities of moving Earth’s course with rocket ships and he once closed his eyes in the cage as a way to return to his natural hitting instincts.

Then Cowser steps onto the field, and the talent is undeniable. Before Cowser received the news Tuesday evening, he hit .300 with a .996 on-base-plus-slugging percentage for the Tides.

But even now, as a full-fledged big leaguer, Cowser won’t change. He’s just as likely to break off onto a tangent as he is to produce for the Orioles — and, if history is any indication, he’s likely to do both early and often.

Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville.

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