In March of this year Kyle McGowin posted on social media that this was the year he would write his old friend Alex Koehne’s initials on a Major League mound. On Wednesday, he lived up to his promise and wrote an “AK” into the mound at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., to honor his old friend who passed way at the age of 15 in 2009.
“It was pretty awesome,” McGowin said on Thursday. “His mom used to babysit me. We were close friends and neighbors.”
After five years of pitching in the Minor Leagues, McGowin, a 26-year-old Sag Harbor native, made his Major League debut for the Washington Nationals after being called up from Triple-A Syracuse two days earlier. He came on in relief in the top of the sixth inning, threw a first pitch strike, forced a pop out and then got a “welcome to the big leagues” from St. Louis Cardinals slugger Yairo Munoz, who deposited a 90-mile-per-hour fastball in the left field seats.
McGowin recorded two easy outs after that and his big league debut was in the books.
“It was a little different coming in from the bullpen,” said McGowin, who has been a starter since his days at Pierson High School and later at Savannah State University. “I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be, but I had the chills coming in and didn’t have the feel for my off-speed pitches.”
Word spread quickly around Sag Harbor Wednesday night as those in attendance in Washington, including McGowin’s parents, Stacy and Shaun, his uncle, grandmother, girlfriend and former Pierson coach, Sean Crowley, sent word back home that he was warming up in the bullpen. By Thursday morning, McGowin’s picture was on a big screen during morning program at Sag Harbor Elementary. The news, and the overall experience of finally reaching the big leagues, was finally settling in for McGowin after he made his appearance on Wednesday.
“Everything is different,” he explained. “From the food to the locker rooms to how you get treated. You can tell you’re in the big leagues.”