McGowan Dusts Off Past to Complete Comeback

Dustin McGowen - Photo by Keith Allison

Dustin McGowan - Photo by Keith Allison

In life there are two types of people: those who quit and those who have not, do not, and will not. A friend once said to me, “After the first time you quit, it’s too easy to do it again.” Quitting is the easy way out for an athlete. If something is too tough physically or mentally, the easiest way to get past it is to give up. Some people, however, couldn’t tell you what quitting is, because they have never experienced it. Sure, maybe they have thought about walking away, but the thought hardly lasts a moment. That is just not how some people are programmed. Simply put, quitting isn’t an option for them.

Toronto Blue Jays’ pitcher Dustin McGowan is no quitter. In 2007 McGowan was a force in the Jays’ starting rotation and, along with Shawn Marcum, looked to be an anchor for the rotation for years to come. Although his ERA was nearly as good in 2008, he only went 6-7 in 19 starts leading to season ending shoulder surgery; and that is where it all goes down hill for McGowan. Dustin was slated to return in 2009, but his recovery from surgery was slower than anticipated and then was halted completely when he damaged cartilage in his knee. Nevertheless, McGowan was still in favour with the Toronto brass and was expected to return mid-season in 2010. That was until he felt more shoulder discomfort that was discovered to be a torn rotator cuff, requiring 4-6 months of rehabilitation.

No doubt those three years were dark times for McGowan. The Savannah, Georgia native was a 1st round pick of the Blue Jays, he was one of the best young pitchers in the game and showed tremendous potential, and he had it all stripped away from him not once, not twice, but three different times. Injuries are tough to overcome physically, but mentally the obstacles seem impossible to conquer. Sitting with a cast or brace on, unable to do what you love, while you watch others live out your dream; the mental strain is enormous. Although the Blue Jays never gave up on McGowan— re-signing him both in 2009 and 2010 for the following seasons—it must have been difficult for him to feel like he was part of any team.

All of the physical injuries, mental anguish, and emotional distress could easily have been the excuses given to explain McGowan’s retirement from baseball; and no one would have blamed him. But Dustin McGowan is not a quitter. He doesn’t give up.  Without a doubt quitting would have been the easy decision, but then he would have to live with that decision for the rest of his life. McGowan is a professional baseball player, and a damn good one, not a quitter, and there was no way he could have gone on living his life knowing he gave up on what he was meant to do from the day he picked up a baseball.

With three serious injuries in his rear-view and no Major League action in three years, McGowan showed up in Dunedin, Florida ready to make the long climb back to the big show. He spent the year split between A-Dunedin and AA-New Hampshire, where he has been electric to say the least. This morning the Toronto Blue Jays announced the comeback of Dustin McGowan is complete, by activating him from the 60-day disabled list and recalling him to the big club. Three years of perseverance have paid off for the hard-throwing right-hander. Indications are that McGowan will throw out of the bullpen at first to build his arm strength, but the possibility of making a spot start is certainly in the cards.

Personally, I think McGowan will return to the form Blue Jays fans remembered in 2007 and will put up a hell of a fight for a spot in the starting rotation for 2012. But regardless of how McGowan pitches upon his return, the fact he has made it back to the place he once dominated is a testament to his resolve as a person. Today, the Rogers Centre will erupt with a deafening cheer for the 29 year old that never gave up and I think that is all he needs to feel vindicated—well maybe a strikeout will help too.

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