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Lowry moves on after pitching career cut short

Tuesday - 4/23/2013, 3:41pm  ET

In this April 11, 2013, photo, former San Francisco Giants baseball pitcher Noah Lowry pulls down a snowboard at his ski and sporting goods store in Santa Rosa, Calif. Former first-round draft pick Noah Lowry still experiences regular pain despite four surgeries in three years. But the left-hander is now in a good place, a father of two running a ski shop in the Sonoma wine country. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

JANIE McCAULEY
AP Baseball Writer

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) -- Noah Lowry can barely hold his two young daughters with his left arm, let alone contemplate ever throwing another pitch.

Even the simple task of taking the mound for a ceremonial first toss practically makes him cringe. Lowry insists that would be impossible with his troublesome left side and the regular pain he still experiences despite four surgeries.

The very arm that made Lowry a first-round draft pick and landed him a long-term contract at age 25 forced him out of baseball.

"I miss it. A big part of me misses it," Lowry said. "But that's life. Life is a lot of twists and turns. It's a big part of who I am and what I was."

Now, he is in a good place -- three years after his career ended prematurely with a canceled throwing session, and nearly six years since he last pitched in a major league game for the Giants.

Experiencing tingling and nerve problems in his pitching arm, Lowry missed the final month in 2007 and still led San Francisco with 14 wins.

These days, he lives just 55 miles north of AT&T Park in the Sonoma wine country, where he and two partners bought Santa Rosa Ski and Sports last August. He joined the Chamber of Commerce and makes time to speak with young athletes.

Lowry is proud that his former Giants franchise captured two World Series titles in the past three years.

"I feel like that ring is here already," he said, touching his heart with his hand. "You're with them emotionally."

Lowry will return to the ballpark one day and revisit all the memories of a career cut short, even the most painful ones. The Giants say they will welcome him back whenever that day arrives.

As much as he would love to fling one last pitch -- in a game or otherwise -- the 32-year-old knows full well his shoulder, neck, forearm and elbow would tell him no.

"I could lob it up there, then click, clap, pop, boom, bang, bing," he said, demonstrating near his store's sales counter a circular motion of just how poorly his arm would perform. "That's not how I want to be remembered."

Not with a shoulder that has never recovered from all the wear and tear, a left arm that has endured operations on each side of his elbow, and a troublesome neck that will one day require fusing and cause him to "move like a robot," as he puts it. He will avoid that procedure as long as possible so he can continue to be active with his children and do things he loves, like golf.

Lowry, selected 30th overall by San Francisco in the 2001 amateur draft, underwent four operations in three years, including the opening of his upper chest area near the neck for the removal of a couple of ribs to relieve a circulatory problem.

He knows the Giants medical staff tried to make him right.

"I have issues all over the place," Lowry said with a smile of his current self. "Those guys over there, that staff, they're good people. They did everything they could possibly try to do with my best interest at hand, their best interest. That organization is a model organization, it really is, and should be respected and is respected. Life moves on for us all, right?"

In the spring of 2008, he was diagnosed with exertional compartment syndrome, an exercise-induced neuromuscular condition. He struggled with control at spring training, returned to the Bay Area for further tests and had surgery to repair the rare nerve problem in his forearm.

He had hoped to return by mid-April but still was experiencing the tingling sensation in his arm. Lowry rehabilitated that entire season, then underwent arthroscopic surgery after the year on the back of his pitching elbow to remove bone spurs.

By the time of Lowry's neck procedure in May 2009, Lowry's agent, Damon Lapa, had accused the Giants of misdiagnosing the pitcher.

"The Giants organization and its medical staff have always treated Noah Lowry's condition appropriately and with the utmost care," the team responded in a statement then. "We have never performed any medically inappropriate procedures on Mr. Lowry."

Lowry is long past all of that. The Giants are, too -- both sides saddened he couldn't keep pitching for the organization.

Lowry went 40-31 with a 4.03 ERA in 100 big league starts and six relief appearances in parts of five big league seasons. He earned nearly $11 million from major league contracts and his signing bonus out of college.

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