Kyle McGowin’s dream of playing Major League Baseball came true on a sunny afternoon at the ballpark in Syracuse on Monday.
After retiring 15 of the 16 batters he faced in a 2-0 Labor Day victory over the Buffalo Bisons, the righthander from Sag Harbor, who has pitched the last month for the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, got called into manager Randy Knorr’s office.
“All the coaches were there. They called me in, sat me down and told me, “You’ll be driving today, but you’re not driving home. You’re driving to D.C.,’” McGowin, 26, said shortly after hearing the news. “I’m thankful that the Nationals took notice of my hard work and gave me the opportunity.”
McGowin attended Savannah State University and was drafted in the fifth round of Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2013. He spent three years in the Angels’ minor-league system, but was traded in 2016 to the Nationals, where he pitched for their Single-A and Double-A affiliates before being called up to Syracuse earlier this summer.
Since being called up to pitch for the Chiefs, McGowin has been rock solid with an ERA of 1.20 in eight appearances. He has allowed just 26 hits and seven earned runs in 52.2 innings pitched.
And his mental approach has been better than ever. In an interview with The Sag Harbor Express earlier this summer, McGowin said he began to make improvements when he simplified his approach, slowed things down and went about his business on a day-to-day basis. The now-more-relaxed starting pitching, who graduated from Pierson High School in 2010 and pitched for the Sag Harbor Whalers of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, had a hard time putting his excitement into words.
“You’re excited but you feel bad for the guys who have grinded with you who also put themselves in a good place and didn’t get the call,” said McGowin, who will drive to Washington with a friend who also got the call up to the big leagues. The two were part of a larger contingent of Syracuse players called up as rosters expand from 25 to 40 players in September at the Major League level.
Washington has struggled in the National League East this year, and as of Monday was 8.5 games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves, and eight games out of the wild card. A playoff appearance is not likely, but for McGowin, his time has finally arrived.
“I’ll try to go in with the same mentality I’ve had all year, that I can compete with these guys,” he said. “I’ll be ready for whenever they call me.”