In his second professional baseball season, an 18-year-old Justin Dowdy found himself in rural Bristol, Tenn..
On one of his first days there, he was shown around by some longtime residents.
"We stopped at this breakfast spot in the morning, and the old man took his keys from the ignition and put them in the cup holder," Dowdy said. "Then we walked inside and I said, 'What are you doing? Someone is going to steal your car.'
"He was like, 'No, they're not. That kind of stuff doesn't happen around here.' "
That was the first — and maybe only — time Dowdy, the closer for the Wingnuts and a native of San Diego, has been surprised by his surroundings.
His 10-year baseball career has taken him to places such as Calgary, Canada; Rockford, Ill. and Sacramento, Calif., among others.
Dowdy has always settled nicely into exotic — or not so exotic — locales because he's used to dealing with different lifestyles.
"I'm able to fit in anywhere because my dad's side of the family is from Columbus, Georgia," Dowdy said "My whole dad's side goes from the very proper Southern type to the complete redneck.
"Then my mom's side is from the Tuscon, Arizona area, so they're all cowboys, country-style."
Dowdy, a 26-year-old left-hander, hasn't fit into the rebuilt Wingnuts bullpen, he has stood out.
After going through several options in the back end of the bullpen last season, the Wingnuts traded with Shreveport-Bossier for Dowdy last August. Since allowing a run in his first appearance, Dowdy has had nine straight scoreless outings, including four in 2010.
Dowdy has played in — and been let go by — four major-league organizations, most recently by Oakland during spring training last year. He's in his 10th pro season and continues to pitch because another opportunity might come.
He lacks superior velocity and secondary pitches, but he could be useful as a matchup left-hander.
"It's all kind of little things about why I got released," Dowdy said. "They could have given me more time or this or that. But the bottom line is that if I would have just gotten it done and put up better numbers, I would have had more time.
"When you're in affiliated ball, you've got to make the most of what you've got. If you don't do it, you've got to realize there's a lot of other players that are waiting to take your spot who are just as good, if not better."
That mature approach is due to Dowdy's overall emotional growth. He stopped smoking after last season —"That was a terrible, terrible habit," —and cut back on after-hours activities.
Dowdy said he takes advice from almost anyone who offers it and the best message he's received so far is, "Get your sleep."
"Early in my career I spent a lot of time going out and all that stuff, having drinks with the guys," Dowdy said. "Now, I try to pick and choose the times when I can do that. When you go home and get a good night's sleep, get a good meal and get your fluids, you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go every day."