For most athletes, giving up might be one of the first things that comes to mind when a severe injury takes place. But for junior Jett McGowan, “the grind” is something he embraces dearly as he still continues to battle with a broken elbow.
Last season, McGowen played baseball at Kankakee Community College in Illinois before transferring to Ball State. He was playing catcher, and what he thought was a normal throw, turned into something that he would remember forever.
“It was literally our last game of the season, and the runner stole second base,” McGowan said. “It was a normal throw, but I heard my elbow pop, and it was like a gun going off in my arm. That’s when I knew I was done.”
Even knowing his elbow was broken, McGowan decided to finish the game because he wasn’t going to step off the field with an injury as his last memory.
“I went into the dugout and had to get my batting gloves,” he said. “I was emotional knowing that this was potentially my final baseball game of my career. I had to give it my all.”
His last collegiate at-bat, as of today, was a base hit. McGowan hit a line drive up the middle despite the discomfort of a snapped elbow. He had to cut down his swing and do anything he could just to make contact. He felt he could still hit, so he did.
“My coaches weren’t going to sub me out right away,” McGowan said. “I had no force to swing my right arm through the baseball, so I had to keep my hands inside and focus on just making contact. I just had to simplify things and try to put my best swing on the ball.”
Fast forward to this fall — McGowan said he is excited to finally start physical therapy and get back into his workout mode. While doing something as simple as a push up can be difficult at times, he is optimistic about his work ahead.
“I love physical therapy,” McGowan said. “I mean, being hurt, you just wish you could be playing, but with physical therapy, it is just like the grind back to playing. You just have to be patient.”
McGowan still reminisces the time of his injury, and he said there is still some passion lingering from that day.
He wants choice.
He wants baseball.
Both of those were taken away from him.
“I am angry because I was in a position to transfer with two years of eligibility left, and the choice of whether or not I get to play again was taken away from me,” McGowan said. “This is why I am just taking it a day at a time and not trying to get too worked up about things I can’t control. I am at the right school for my education and, God willing, maybe even baseball.”
McGowan’s desire is ending his baseball career on his own terms. It is the game he has grown up with and still loves. He wants to be the one who says when he can no longer step up to the plate.
“I do not quit,” McGowan said. “Anything I am actually passionate about, I never quit. Having that choice taken away from me, such as simply playing into future seasons or deciding where I want to play when I transfer, sucks because I had offers to play at some Division I schools.”
At this stage of his process, McGowan said just wants to be able to throw again.
“My main goal with this surgery is to be able to throw a softball or baseball with my kids if they end up playing sports,” McGowan said.
The only way he will ever play at a competitive level again, McGowan said, is if he can do so to the best of his ability.
“I will not pick up a baseball again to play competitively if I can’t at my highest level,” McGowan said.
If the surgery goes well, McGowan may end up talking with Ball State Baseball head coach Rich Maloney about walking on for his senior year, but his health is the number one priority. He said the biggest thing he can hold close to him is that he is always an athlete.
“I am an athlete,” McGowan said. “My uncle works for the Colts and told me that even though he is retired, he is still an athlete. I was telling him how weird it was going to be going into my junior year not being an athlete, and he immediately cut me off.”
“You are always an athlete,” his uncle said.