This time last year, Michael Bowden was gearing up for a season with the Boston Red Sox, hoping to stick on the big-league roster after spring training.
Now, Bowden's days are filled with charity events and a Cubs Caravan tour around the suburbs in which he was raised.
"It's unbelievable," said Bowden, who grew up as a Cubs fan in Aurora. "I was traded last April. Out of chance, I was dealt to the Cubs...It was a dream come true. I couldn't have scripted it any better.
"Hopefully I help the team win and I'm here for a long time. I'm really enjoying this all. It's awesome."
The 26-year-old pitcher joined Cubs players and staff -- including Gold Glove-winning second baseman Darwin Barney and manager Dale Sveum -- in a visit to promote health and wellness to the students Thursday morning at Fox Chase Elementary School in Oswego, where Bowden currently makes his home.
"You go there, you see them all and they're all decked out in Cubs gear. They're impressed that you're there," Bowden said of his visit to Fox Chase. "It's fun to be able to have that kind of effect on kids when you go to places like that.
"To be able to give back to the community that I'm actually living in is really, really cool."
Bowden starred at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora before the Red Sox drafted him with the 47th pick in the 2005 MLB Draft. He came over to the Cubs in the Marlon Byrd deal last spring and immediately joined the Chicago bullpen.
The 6-foot-3 righty got off to a tough start in his Cubs career, surrendering eight runs in 9.2 innings between April and May. The Cubs sent him down to Triple-A Iowa, where he made 23 relief appearances.
Bowden was recalled in mid-August and posted a 1.33 ERA the rest of the way, including 11 straight scoreless appearances to end the 2012 season.
He enters spring training this year hoping to snag a bullpen spot in the majors, but still remembers where he comes from. The hometown kid had friends and family come out to Wrigley Field all last year, and anticipates much of the same this season.
"It's not overwhelming," Bowden said. "During BP and stuff, I'll have old friends and stuff hollering at me from the stands. It's nice because usually during the season, I leave in February and I don't get home until October.
"Now, I'm around friends and family throughout the course of the season. It's good to be around them and see them. It's a different lifestyle than I've been accoustmed to the last seven years."
Bowden said he's even run into some old opponents from his high school days at Wrigley Field.
"I had a couple guys last year tell me how they hit homers off me. And I don't recall that at all," he deadpanned. "A lot of people come out to the game. It's cool to catch up with some guys and see how we know each other or have run across each other in the past."