It was not just another spring training for Kyle McGowin and his Washington teammates. The Nationals were coming off their first ever World Series victory and McGowin, a Sag Harbor native with a rocket for a right arm, was looking forward to getting his championship ring with his teammates on April 14.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit and everything changed. Ballparks went empty and America’s game, like so much of life, was put on pause.
“We had a long enough offseason as is, and after winning a World Series we were hungry for more,” said McGowin, who was not on the World Series roster but contributed enough during the regular season to earn a ring. “Coming in for spring training and getting that taste of the season, and then having to stop again, it’s been really hard.”
Like so many Americans, McGowin’s life has been severely restricted. “We’re not even allowed on the field,” he said during a phone interview this week from his new home in West Palm Beach, Florida, where the Nationals hold spring training. “I have a teammate that’s around so I throw with my teammate and I built a little gym in my garage.”
For McGowin, the pause in training comes at a critical time in his career. After making his Major League debut in the fall of 2018, he made seven appearances last season including his first career big league start. Otherwise, the 2010 Pierson High School graduate has bounced around the minor leagues, finding success every step of the way.
This spring he was transitioning from his role as a starting pitcher to being a reliever. He was working on his slider and was increasing velocity on his fastball. And despite being optioned to Triple-A Fresno a few weeks prior to when the season was supposed to begin, even that future is now uncertain as Major League Baseball could allow teams to expand their rosters to accommodate a tighter schedule and more doubleheaders.
“There’s not much we can do right now except be ready when our name is called and the season starts,” McGowin said. “We’re optimistic the season will take place, it’s just a matter of when. We need it. The country needs it. Especially after winning the World Series last year, we are looking forward to helping the country heal and giving everyone something to watch.”