Long County native Dustin McGowan finally made it back to the Toronto Blue Jays pitcher’s mound Tuesday night.
After not throwing a pitch in the majors for more than three years, the right-hander was called on as a reliever when the Jays took on the Boston Red Sox. Though McGowan came into the game with his team already out of it, he received a standing ovation from the fans at Rogers Centre stadium when he took the mound. With the crowd on their feet and cheering, the right-hander got a little misty-eyed, according to his mother, Tara Manning.
“It was emotional for him finally getting back out there, and it was emotional for me to watch him,” she said.
Manning said that her son called last Friday from Maine, and told her that he was flying to Toronto, and at that point she knew he was going to be called back up.
“I was so proud of him,” she said. “After all he’s been through, for him to stick with it and then get that call — it was a good day.”
The journey back to Toronto hasn’t been easy. On July 8, 2008, as he was facing the Baltimore Orioles, the ace pitcher had to leave the mound due to pain in his right shoulder. Later that month he had to have surgery on it and, to make matters worse, following that surgery he injured his knee and had to have surgery on it, setting him back even further. But even though he got down and, at times, discouraged, his team and his family never gave up on it. The Toronto front office re-signed him in both 2009 and 2010, and according to his mother, all of the players continued to support him.
“The rest of his team has been great. No matter what he had to do, they were always there supporting him, too,” Manning said.
She said his team camaraderie was the reason why, when he took the mound Tuesday, he was wearing something that fans hadn’t seen in a while.
“You know baseball players are very superstitious. His team told him that he had to keep his mutton-chop sideburns on and not shave them off, so when he came out on Tuesday he still had them,” Manning said.
The proud mom also said that from what she has seen and from what McGowan has told her, his shoulder is in good shape and he is 100 percent.
“Oh yeah, he said that the shoulder is back to normal, that he is able to throw everything he could before and that it feels good,” Manning said.
On Tuesday, when McGowan threw his first pitch, he showed the world exactly what his mother was talking about. His first pitch was a 94 mph fast ball for a strike. In the game, McGowan faced 20 batters, throwing 74 pitches. Of those pitches, 44 were for strikes. He allowed five hits, three walks, three runs, three earned runs, a homerun, and he struck out five batters.
With only 18 games left in the season and the Jays looking to next year, McGowan still has a few more games to enjoy before this season is over. But for his mom, no matter what he does in the future, she will never be more proud of him than she was Tuesday.
McGowan will be making his first start today against the Orioles.