Jackson Kowar spent his first recovery day as a professional athlete at a place one doesn’t find many baseball players — at an AAU basketball tournament.
Wearing a blue Hawaiian shirt and board shorts, the Royals second overall draft pick of the 2018 draft sat in the bleachers with some teammates as St. Louis’ Bradley Beal Elite faced the Oakland Soldiers in the under-16 bracket of the Peach Jam on Friday.
A night removed from his first professional start in baseball, Kowar kept to himself after his debut with the Lexington Legends went far from ideal.
The 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher recorded just one out against the Augusta Greenjackets at the Single-A level and threw only 27 pitches before being pulled in the first inning. He was charged with three runs, three singles and a pair of walks in a game Augusta won 7-4.
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“I haven’t faced a live hitter in three weeks, so that was part of it,” Kowar told The Star after the game Thursday night. “At the end of the day I didn’t really execute two-strike pitches against the middle of the order when I needed to. I had a walk and a base hit there with the (No. 3), (No.4) hitters.”
In his brief outing, Kowar’s fastball sat in the low 90s, and his ability to locate pitches showed flashes of what he had done as a dominant pitcher at Florida. His lone out came on a 92 mph fastball that hit the inside corner and froze Greenjackets designated hitter Shane Matheny.
After having leaned more on off-speed pitches in college, Kowar said an ideal pro outing for him will feature his fastball 60 percent of the time and mix in his curveball and change-up across the other 40 percent.
He is on a pitch count for the remainder of the season after having pitched 112.1 innings in his final college season, which ended in the College World Series.
Growing up in Weddington, North Carolina, Kowar said he wasn’t familiar with the Royals for most of his childhood but got a good feel for the organization the past few years.
“I hadn’t really seen much on them until the World Series runs a couple years ago,” he said. “Obviously everyone could tell they had such a close knit and family atmosphere. You could even see that watching on TV how they all came up together through the farm system. Knowing that, it was an exciting place to be.”
Kowar was taken by the Royals in the first compensation round of June’s draft, right after his college teammate Brady Singer was selected as No. 18 pick overall to Kansas City in the first round.
The Royals went on to take three more college pitchers with their following picks, with the hope being the prospects develop into their rotation of the future.
“The bottom line is the only way you tilt the field in your favor is you have pitching,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said on the first night of the draft. “We know that we have to develop pitching. I think we’ve done a really good job at developing pitching. We’ve had our share of failures like anybody else. We’ve had our fair share of successes. And we feel really good about our pitching program.”
Kowar said both he and Singer are excited to be playing together at the next level and finds comfort in having a familiar face in the organization.
He understands the expectation the fanbase has for his draft class, as the backbone to the organization’s next championship run, and welcomes some of the pressure that comes with that.
“A lot of people have talked about these last two draft classes as being big ones for the Royals,” he said. “I haven’t had too much time to spend with the guys but I know a lot of the guys that are here are a bunch of really good players. I think everyone’s really excited about it. I don’t think the expectations are going to scare anyone away.”