As 6-foot-3 junior Mike McGowan steps into the dugout, Springfield College varsity baseball coach Mark Simeone knows exactly what he is looking at.
If the team needs a relief pitcher, McGowan is in. If the team needs a pinch hitter, he is in. If the team needs a first baseman, he is in. Or if one of the players falls down writhing in pain, once again, McGowan is there.
The versatile McGowan continued a stellar junior season on Tuesday, April 16, banging out four hits in a 16-0 rout of Nichols College. He now leads the team in batting average at .357. The Physical Therapy major has also been a reliable reliever this year, posting a 4.50 ERA through eight innings of work.
Baseball is a passion throughout Franklin, Mass., which really takes pride in its Little League program and its development of young baseball players. Growing up in Franklin, baseball was constant throughout McGowan’s life.
Sixteen years ago, little Michael took his first swings at a ball propped up on a tee, igniting a passion that has yet to be matched.
“My parents introduced me to it,” stated McGowan. “Nothing ever compared to baseball, and I have loved the sport ever since.”
Pitching was McGowan’s niche throughout his early career, and during high school, he hired a pitching coach to help him take his game to a whole new level. During his junior year, however, his perspective on baseball took a huge turn.
“My junior year of high school is when I discovered that I also loved playing first base,” recalled McGowan. “Coaches always told me that colleges would want me more if I was versatile and could play a lot of different positions. So I came into Springfield College as both a pitcher and a first baseman. I love both positions so much.”
Excelling at two different positions is tough for any athlete at any level, especially baseball. Every position in baseball, whether it is shortstop, first base or pitcher, has its own set of unique skills that players must perfect in order to excel.
“It is tough. I dedicate a lot of time to both groups,” said McGowan. “Most players on the team have only one position to worry about.”
McGowan, despite time consuming workouts with both the pitchers and the infielders, has excelled for three seasons at both positions for the Pride.
“He is a very strong and quick offensive player with the ability to drive the ball. He also has the ability to throw strikes and get hitters out from the mound,” said Simeone of his captain.
“We try to take advantage of his skills and talents and use him as much as possible in ways that will help [the team]. It is difficult to produce in those duel ways at a higher level, but [Mike] is capable of doing it and we want to exploit his talents.”
In his freshman year, McGowan missed only three games and hit .243 with 26 hits while notching eight strikeouts and posting an ERA of 4.82 is six relief appearances. However, sophomore year proved to be the coming out party for McGowan as he recorded a .339 batting average and a 3.83 ERA in 28 games.
Picking up right where he left off, McGowan, aside from his team-leading batting average, has blasted five of the team’s six triples this year and leads the team in runs (24), hits (37), RBIs (15) and total bases (52) through 27 games.
Still, no matter what numbers he racks up on the field, there is only one number that matters to him: 3.7. This number determines McGowan’s future and is the main purpose for his tenure here at Springfield College. It is his GPA.
“Mike studies his butt off all the time,” said Annie Warchol, the Director of Pre-Camp at SC. “You can always find him in the library studying.”
“I enjoy studying,” said McGowan. “On average, I study between three and five hours a night.”
Springfield College offers a wide variety of majors with many of them challenging students to excel beyond their potential. Physical Therapy is one of the hardest and most demanding majors on campus, so much so that most students who apply for the program are turned down, even if they could make it into many elite colleges across the country.
“Everything I am involved in is crucially important to me, but my number one priority has always been academics,” said McGowan.
After a long day of studying and baseball practice, “Physical Therapy is first on the list and everything else follows.”
Difficult majors do not make the transition into college as easy and as effortless as it may sound. Coming into college, most students are scared and nervous to begin their whole new lifestyle, no matter what major they are in.
“I enrolled into Pre-Camp and I fell in love with the way that it made my transition into college so much easier and the environment it had,” recalled McGowan.
Held at East Campus, Pre-Camp is a program that allows incoming freshmen to be welcomed into the college atmosphere and lifestyle before their New Student Orientation experience.
Pre-Camp had such a profound impact on McGowan, that in his freshman year he applied to become a leader and was accepted. Then, in his junior year, he applied to be a co-chair, the main leader of the program for his senior year, and once again he got the nod.
“I’m excited that he applied to be the Pre-Camp co-chair because to me that showed that he wanted more responsibility,” said Warchol. “Mike is a really good role model for anybody. People look at him and notice that he is a great guy who is able to balance all this stuff and still hold it together and be a genuinely happy human being.”
And a leader he is. There is an age-old fable that states, “Actions speak louder than words.” McGowan’s actions, whether it is on the field, in the lab, or at East Campus, speak louder than words. McGowan leads by example on and off the field, and that has made all the difference.