Kyle McGowin, who led Savannah State to its first-ever appearance in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division 1 baseball tournament last spring, and who recently received Georgia’s D-1 player of the year award, was to have left for the Los Angeles Angels’ training camp in Tempe, Ariz., yesterday.
Kyle planned to make the trip in a brand new, shiny black pickup truck that was bought with some of his sizable bonus money. His parents, Shaun and Tracy, were to have followed along.
During a recent conversation at the McGowins’ house in Sag Harbor, the 6-foot-3 195-pounder, whose fastball, thrown with a whipping motion, is said to top out in the mid-90s at present, said he would very much like to make the Angels’ major league roster right away, “but it’s more likely that I’ll start off with their high-A team in San Bernadino [Calif.] or with their low-A team in Burlington, Iowa.”
A late signer, the 22-year-old McGowin, who was a fifth-round draft pick, pitched a dozen innings this past summer with a Rookie League team, the Orem (Utah) Owlz, enough to earn him, if not a rave, a not unfavorable prognosis.
A January report that appeared on MonkeyWithAHalo.com, a Web site for Angels fans that is unaffiliated with the major league club, has caveats when it comes to McGowin’s command, control, and overall performance, but Scotty Allen, its preparer, notes there well could be an upside, concluding that “McGowin is a good prospect, and it should be only a matter of time before the rest of the world sees this. But until he accomplishes anything in the minors and has a for-sure, defined role, we have to keep him at a C [regarding his prospects]. Still, I envision him being quite a bit higher this time next year.”
“He was contacted by all the teams in the major leagues,” the elder McGowin said, adding that his son’s fastball had been steadily picking up speed. “It topped out at 87 in high school, his freshman year in college it was 89, in sophomore year it was 92-ish, and now it’s up to 95, 96.”
“Originally, I was supposed to go out there on March 2, but then they called to say I should come out earlier,” said Kyle, who was pleased at the prospect of becoming a fill-in pitcher with the major league club in Tempe. “It’s awesome to go early — it’s what I wanted.”
“They’re rebuilding — it’s a perfect organization for a pitcher,” Shaun McGowin said. “He was the Angels’ fourth overall pick. The first eight guys were pitchers. The ninth guy was the catcher from Florida State who faced Kyle’s team in the regionals.”
On the subject of control, Kyle’s father said, “He struck out 135 and walked 30 in 120 innings this past season, and he struck out 97 and walked 14 in his sophomore year.”
“It’s kind of hard throwing here, as you can imagine,” his mother said, directing their visitor’s eyes to the snowed-in backyard.
Asked what he needed to work on, Kyle, who can throw four pitches for strikes, said, “Attacking more with the fastball and pitching inside.”
He said that when it comes to pitching he is more or less self-taught, though in his freshman and sophomore years at Savannah State — he has foregone his senior year — he had a mentor who worked with him on staying focused and making minor adjustments to his mechanics.
A baseball player is somewhat of an anomaly in the McGowin family, which leans toward wrestling. Kyle’s father wrestled for East Hampton High School (as did Kyle for three years when he was a student at Pierson) and went to the Greco-Roman nationals. His grandfather, Rob, wrestled at Southampton High, and his great-grandfather, Donald McGowin, “was a state champion,” according to Kyle’s father, who refs high school matches nowadays.
“I didn’t want that kid from Hauppauge sticking his elbow in his ear,” Shaun McGowin said when asked why his son forewent his senior year of wrestling at East Hampton. Kyle consequently gave up the sport, but grudgingly, he said.
“Benito [Vila] throws with me every day,” Kyle said when asked how he went about training here. “I also throw at Paul Gibson’s All-Pro sports academy” in Bellport.
“Paul Gibson tried to sign him for the Royals,” Kyle’s father interjected.
“And four days a week, I go to [Rich Decker’s] Studio 89 here, where I work on my legs and core. . . . You don’t want your upper body to be too big, too tight — your arm slows down. I’ve been working at Studio 89 since my freshman year in college.”
As for his whipping, inverted-W pitching motion, Kyle, who has gained 40 pounds, most of it muscle, since high school, said, “It just happened. I began throwing that way in sophomore year at college. It’s given me more movement and speed.”
“And now,” said Kyle’s father, with a smile, “he’s got to go throw, lift, and work on his car” — a 1970 Dodge Charger that he and his grandfather are building.