Sag Harbor alumnus and 2019 World Series champion Kyle McGowin has always hoped to give back, and he’s doing so with the help of a conditioning coach.
The current right-handed pitcher for the Washington Nationals organization will be at 365 Athletics on Station Road in Bellport on Friday, November 27, hosting a pitching clinic for children ages 7 to 14. There will be two sessions, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and noon to 1:30 p.m.
“It’s nice to give back to the Long Island and local community,” McGowin said. “It’s cool to be a mentor.”
But he said it couldn’t have been done without the help of Ray Babinsky, co-owner of 365 Athletics and Infiniti Sports Performance, a youth organization at the same location that offers athletes the chance to work with strength and conditioning specialists, and which worked with McGowin right after high school to help him minimize the chance of future injury.
“He said he had been hurt every year of his baseball career — little things coming up here and there — and felt he couldn’t take the next step forward until he was healthy,” Babinsky said. “We’ve been able to achieve that together.”
Infiniti Sports Performance has actually worked with several current Major League Baseball players. Most notable is Patchogue-Medford High School alumnus Marcus Stroman, who previously played for the Toronto Blue Jays and just signed a one-year, $18.9 million contract with the New York Mets. Other pros include current Blue Jays pitcher and Ward Melville High School graduate Anthony Kay, and Texas Rangers pitcher and St. John the Baptist High School alumnus Joe Palumbo.
Stroman has also hosted clinics at 365 Athletics. McGowin took part in his first last year, in Southampton. The Pierson High School graduate said coming from a small community like Sag Harbor, he already knows he’ll be seeing a lot of familiar faces.
“Since it’s a small town, I know everyone,” he said, laughing. “I’ve seen most of these kids my whole life. They love to have fun with me.”
Babinsky, who is also an East Islip High School teacher, said what makes this clinic special compared to others he’s seen, is that McGowin is looking to be as hands-on as he can.
“Most usually tell the kids to do their homework, work hard, listen to coaches,” Babinksy said. “Kyle wants to be on the mound with each and every young pitcher that comes to the clinic. He wants to watch them and advise them. He’s literally working with them.”
Instruction will focus on pitching mechanics and how to throw properly. Emphasis will be placed on consistent arm action, the use of the lower half to drive the ball, various pitching grips and pitcher fielding practice. McGowin, who has promised Babinsky that he will wear his World Series ring, will also be bringing along a Rapsodo Pitching Unit — a big-league tool that provides instant data on pitch velocity, spin rate, true spin rate, spin axis, and spin efficiency, as well as strike zone analysis, horizontal and vertical break, 3D trajectory and now release information. McGowin is also giving each athlete an autographed 5×7 photo.
Infiniti Performance coaches will be going over what to do before and after pitching, the recovery process, rotator cuff strengthening tips and red flags for pitchers.
Currently, 50 kids are signed up for the event. Registration is $60 per person and can be done at www.365-athletics.com, by calling 631-803-2299 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The baseball and softball facility is 15,000 square feet, about 12,000 of which is open turf space, and the kids will be split into two groups of 25 for each session, and then from there broken down into groups of five that will rotate through different stations, one of which will be on the mound with McGowin. Following all Suffolk County Department of Health guidelines as they pertain to COVID-19, 365 Athletics staff members will be wearing masks at all times and temperature checks will be done at the door. Equipment will be sanitized before the clinic and throughout the day.
“I feel we’re fortunate to be able to do this, and it’s a good time, too — right around the holidays,” Babinsky said. “I’m a teacher by day and kid’s lives have been turned upside down because of this pandemic, so at least for the small percentage that will be able to come to this, it’s going to be something positive in an otherwise compromised time of their lives.”
McGowin felt the same, hoping in times of shutdowns and hardships he can bring back a sense of normalcy, and some excitement to the kids.
“It’s just fun to make their days better — talk to them about their goals and what they want to accomplish,” McGowin said. “I want to pass what I’ve learned along and keep the game alive.”