Timothy Wells Howard
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 155 lb.
- School Imperial Valley Junior College
- High School Brawley Union High School
Tim Howard played professionally for 15 years, winning two MVP awards. His career average was over .300.
1988-1993: Mets chain
Howard was taken by the New York Mets in the 5th round of the 1988 amateur draft, the 130th selection. He was taken two picks after another infielder who would spend a long time in pro ball and who also would appear in Asia, but also would not play in the majors - Tyrone Woods. Howard debuted with the Kingsport Mets, hitting .288/.351/.407 with 46 RBI in 68 games, to help the team win its first Appalachian League title. He fielded .878 at shortstop, his main position. Howard tied Glen Gardner for the league lead with six sacrifice flies.
Tim split 1989 between the Pittsfield Mets (.281/.337/.377, 8 3B in 63 G) and Columbia Mets (.281/.305/.298 in 15 G) while moving to second base. He tied Chris Butterfield for the New York-Penn League in triples. In 1990, the Californian spent all year with Columbia, now mostly playing third base. The constant position changes weren't affecting his hitting negatively, as he produced at a .323/.373/.461 clip with 11 triples, 10 home runs, 80 runs, 89 RBI, 30 steals (in 40 tries) and only 44 strikeouts in 505 at-bats. He led the South Atlantic League in average (.008 ahead of runner-up Brook Fordyce), hits (163), total bases (233), RBI and triples (tied with Brian Cornelius). He was also among the leaders in OBP (8th), slugging (3rd behind Fordyce and Nigel Wilson), runs (6th) and steals (tied with Monte Brooks for 7th). The only negative was his .893 fielding percentage at the hot corner. He not only won honors as the SAL All-Star shortstop but also the MVP. Baseball America named him as the #6 prospect in the league, trailing Tito Navarro, Ryan Klesko, Willie Greene, Tim Pugh and Fordyce.
The odds are a player would deviate back to the norm after such a stellar season and Howard was far from an exception, putting up mediocre numbers in 1991. He split the year between the St. Lucie Mets (.260/.295/.374 in 60 G) and Williamsport Bills (.257/.296/.347 in 68 G). He only drew 28 walks and was thrown out in 10 of 24 steal attempts. He produced 90 runs after 179 the year before. One positive was his triple total (9), two shy of D.J. Dozier's lead for a Mets farmhand that summer.
In 1992, Howard moved to the outfield and hit .273/.325/.378 with 9 triples and 11 outfield assists for the Binghamton Mets. He led the Eastern League with 9 sacrifice flies and tied Hector Vargas for the most triples. Tim spent 1993 between Binghamton (.300/.421/.440 in 28 G) and the Norfolk Tides (.264/.301/.365 in 64 G), making it to AAA.
1994-1998: Two more AAA seasons and independent league stardom
Howard was with the Mexico City Tigers in 1994 and batted .306/.381/.379. In '95, he was a replacement player for the Boston Red Sox before the strike was settled. Boston kept him around after the strike ended, sending him to the Pawtucket Red Sox, and he did pretty well (.311/.367/.389 in 38 G) but finished the season with the Chicago White Sox Nashville Sounds affiliate and was not as good there (.233/.322/.340 in 37 G). He ended his AAA career with a .282 average.
Howard next played in the independent leagues. In 1996, he hit .329 and slugged .434 for the Amarillo Dillas. Had he qualified, he would have been 5th in the Texas-Louisiana League in average. Back with Amarillo in '97, he improved to .352/?/.513. He was 10th in the high-offense league in average and was named the All-Star shortstop, returning to the position he began his career at.
In 1998, the 28/29-year-old kept on improving for the Dillas, batting an impressive .447 with 37 doubles, 13 triples and a .728 slugging percentage. He destroyed the league record for average (52 points more then Jorge Alvarez's old mark and 42 ahead of runner-up Jay Davis), was second to Davis in slugging (13 points shy), set a new league hit record (148, 8 more than Dennis Hood, who played a 18-game longer schedule in 1995), set a new RBI record (96, topping Kevin Tahan's record by one, also set in 1995's longer schedule), set a new triple record (4 more than the old mark) and tied the record for doubles (shared previously by Hood and Alvarez). He was named the All-Star second baseman and won his second MVP. Presumably a candidate for the Baseball America Independent League Player of the Year Award, he lost out that honor to another record-setter, Morgan Burkhart of the Frontier League.
1999-2002: Taiwan and Yuma
Howard's independent league success won him a look in Taiwan. Signing with the Taichung Agan, he hit .349/.425/.573 to help them win the Taiwan Major League title. He was third in the TML in average (after fellow Americans Brad Strauss and Rod Brewer), hit 15 home runs, stole 26 bases and scored 67 times in 84 games. He split 2000 between the Agan (.328/.397/.492 in 17 G) and the Kaoping Fala (.313/.377/.422 in 67 G). His .316 composite average was 9th in the TML, between Kun-Han Lin and Cheng-Ming Wu. He was third among foreigners again, this time trailing Cuban Manny Estrada and Japan's Shinji Ando.
Howard spent his final two seasons closer to home with the Yuma Bullfrogs. He hit .350/.419/.509 with 65 runs and 63 RBI in 86 games in 2001. He was 4th in the Western Baseball League in average (behind |Ray Brown, Brad Gennaro and Chris Powell), 7th in OBP, 9th in slugging, tied Carlos Villalobos for 7th in RBI and tied Joe Kilburg for 5th in runs. He was named an All-Star outfielder, joining Gennaro and Powell in being picked.
In his last season, he remained strong for Yuma at .344/.405/.424 with only 19 whiffs in 337 at-bats, while only making one error in the outfield. He was 5th in average (behind Greg Jacobs, Keith Mitchell, Anton French and T.J. Maier) and was 9th with 62 RBI. He was not picked as an All-Star as French, Mitchell and Jacobs were chosen in the outfield.