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Dustin and Jilly McGowan prepare for spring training
Jilly and Dustin McGowan at their Ludowici home. - photo by Photo by Mike Riddle
LUDOWICI - When Dustin McGowan was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays as a first round pick in 2000, everyone thought the right-hander had the tools to be a big league pitcher.
After seven years of bouncing between the minors and majors, this past season the Long County native finally was given the shot to make the team as a starter.  In his first complete season, he went 12-10 and had an ERA of 4.08.  
On June 24, McGowan flirted with history as he faced the Colorado Rockies. Going into the ninth inning he had yet to give up a hit, but in the ninth, Jeff Baker managed a single, so the pitcher had to settle for a shutout.
"This year when I was told (by manager John Gibbons) I was in the rotation, and for me to just go out there and pitch, it made a big difference," McGowan said, adding "When you're a young pitcher and you have a bad outing it messes with you more, so when I was told that, it helped a lot"
This season also made life less stressful for McGowan and his wife Jilly.
"It was hard on both of us when he was moved up and down, here and there, this year was definitely easier," Jilly said.
But even though McGowan appears to be solidly in the Blue Jay rotation, he says he still is approaching spring training like he has in the past.
"I'm looking at the season like I still have to make the team, maybe I'm a little more relaxed, but I still have to work hard," the pitcher said.
The McGowans say they love Toronto, but they love coming home too.
"Of all the stadiums, it's (Rogers Centre' Stadium) the nicest, and the people in Toronto are so nice, we really love it. But we miss our families and we love to come home," Jilly said.
Last season, the Blue Jays stayed competitive all year, but injuries plagued the team, and hurt their chances for post-season play.
"I think we're in the toughest division. With Boston and New York it's tough to take the division.  But I think if we stay healthy we have a good shot at the playoffs, at lest a wildcard spot," McGowan said.
The right-hander said he was putting individual goals off until he has started spring training.
The young couple will be loading up and heading off to Dunedin, Fla., on Jan. 16 to start spring training, and as much as both of them have enjoyed being home, they both are looking forward to getting back to baseball.
"It's been really relaxing, just taking it easy, but I'm kind of ready to get back going," McGowan said.
Jilly added, "We love coming home, but we're ready to get back.  We'll leave out early next week, and get to spring training early."
Despite having to leave, the couple said Long County is home.
"We appreciate all of the support from everyone here, it helps us keep going when we are away from home."

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