There are 305 West Coast League (WCL) alumni playing within Major League organizations and 33 of them are former Bellingham Bells.
Spencer Howard (Rangers), Michael Rucker (Cubs) and Adrian Sampson (Cubs) are Bells alumni who saw time on Major League rosters during the 2021 season.
The “Bells in the Bigs” series will check in with Bells alumni playing for professional organizations at different levels across the Major League Baseball landscape.
First team on the list, the Baltimore Orioles. Three Bells alumni currently are within the Orioles’ system: outfielder Kyle Stowers, infielder Collin Burns and pitcher Justin Armbruester.
Stowers was a Bell in 2017 after his sophomore year at Stanford University and was the 71st overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft.
Stowers played 33 games with the Bells and posted a .320 average with 26 RBI and seven home runs.
Two summers later in 2019, Stowers played for the Class A Short Season Aberdeen IronBirds of the New York-Penn League. Stowers posted a slash line of (.216/ .289 / .377) in 55 games played.
The NYPL ceased operations in December of 2020 which forced many of its member teams to seek new affiliations — some joined the MLB Draft League and others folded with no future.
The IronBirds joined the new High-A East and welcomed Stowers back to the newly affiliated team in the summer of 2021.
Stowers played 36 games with the IronBirds before being called up to the Orioles AA affiliate the Bowie Baysox where he played 66 games and impressed with a .283 batting average and 17 home runs.
The Orioles AAA affiliate, the Norfolk Tide, took notice and called up Stowers for the remaining 22 games of the summer. Stowers had 81 at-bats for the Tide and finished the season with a .272 average and 10 RBI on 22 hits.
After the season, the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League activated Stowers on October 4, 2021. The Solar Sox are affiliated with the Orioles, Cubs, Marlins, Athletics and Blue Jays.
Right-hander Justin Armbruester was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 12th round of the 2021 MLB Draft.
Armbruester was a Bell during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. In 2018, he appeared in 13 games with five starts. He threw for 44.1 innings and posted a 1.83 ERA and a 2-2 record. Armbruester returned to the Bells in 2019, notching 24 innings and a 2-1 record on the season.
In mid-August of 2021, Armbruester was assigned to the Low-A East Delmarva Shorebirds who play in Salisbury, Maryland. He has made eight appearances and one start since his assignment. He ended the season with an ERA of 1.93.
The Shorebirds 132-game, 2022 season is scheduled to begin on April 8, 2022.
Infielder Collin Burns was a Bell in 2019 and batted .305 in 49 games. Burns was selected in the sixth round of the 2021 June Amateur MLB Draft.
Burns graduated from Tulane University in 2021 after his final season with the Green Wave. Like Armbruester, Burns was assigned to the Shorebirds in August and played in 19 games with a (.279 / .363 / .309) slash line and 10 RBI.
Keep an eye on these former Bells to continue climbing the ladder in hopes of making it to the Major League stage soon.