By STEVE KRAH
Mikhail McCowin chose the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind., for college and as he comes to the end of his senior year as a student-athlete he reflects on the experience.
McCowin, a corner outfielder on the USF baseball team, has found comfort, community, culture and camaraderie as a Cougar.
As an Exercise Science major with a Psychology minor due to participate in May 1 commencement, McCowin sees in Saint Francis the academics he sought and it helped that he was already in Fort Wayne as a 2017 graduate of Bishop Luers High School.
McCowin likes that USF has a relatively small campus and student body (about 2,300 students), compared to larger schools that he explored.
“It’s close-knit here,” says McCowin. “Everybody has a familiarity with everybody. I’m more comfortable with smaller campus and interaction between teachers and students.”
With plenty of sweat and toil, players and coaches have gotten Cougar Field back into shape so home games can be staged on-campus rather than at the ASH Centre/World Baseball Academy.
“It looks amazing,” says McCowin of the diamond located on the west side of town. “We have high reverence and respect for our field.
“It’s sweet when fans can come straight from their dorms to the field and we can closely connect to the Saint Francis community. That plays a huge role in how we play.”
It’s common for USF teams to show up to cheer on other Cougar athletes (the school has 18 varsity sports).
An added bonus of the small campus is that the baseball team spends up to seven hours a day with each other, forming strong bonds.
“We get foster that relationship everyday,” says McCowin.
When he was recruiting McCowin through a contact at Athletes With Purpose (AWP) in Fort Wayne, Dustin Butcher (who was a Saint Francis assistant and became head coach following the 2018 season when Greg Roberts retired) emphasized culture at the NAIA member institution.
“He said it will definitely challenge my character and make me a better person,” says McCowin. “We keep ourselves accountable. We pick our brothers up.
“If they need it, we get them help. We lean on each other.”
McCowin says the team GPA has increased considerably in the last few seasons.
“We take care of our bodies,” says McCowin. “We take care of our schoolwork.”
If there are opportunities — like a job opening or the chance to play for a summer team — the Cougars pass that information along.
There are several local players on the Saint Francis roster and this has allowed families to get involved with coordinating postgame meals — one broke out the grill as the Cougars celectrateb recent victory — and cheering on the players.
As a student of exercise and psychology, McCowin knows the physical and mental side as a ballplayer.
“I live what I’ve learned everyday,” says McCowin. “I’m always seeking ways to be better at my craft and persevering through hard times.
“I’m making sure my body’s right and healthy.”
Early this season, McCowin tweaked his back and was out of the lineup.
“It was an inflammation of the SI joint at the hip,” says McCowin. “I got back though (physical therapy) and with the trainer.
“I used every resource to get myself healthy.”
After being discharged, he still goes to the training room — as do many of his teammates — for maintenance.
McCowin follows several physical therapists on social media, including MoveU on Instagram, and seeks out mentors to learn such as AWP co-founder and Sports Performance Chief Performance Officer Bryan Bourcier.
He also has Butcher, who teaches a Sports Psychology class.
Heading into a home series Friday and Saturday, April 16-17 with Mount Vernon Nazarene, Saint Francis is riding a six-game win streak and is 27-13 overall and 17-7 in the Crossroads League.
McCowin is hitting .328 (21-of-64) with four home runs, one triple, three doubles, 22 runs batted in, 14 runs scored and 4-of-5 in stolen bases in 26 games. His OPS is 1.004 (.410 on-base percentage plus .594 slugging average).
The righty swinger belted two homers in an April 6 win against visiting Indiana University South Bend.
For his career, McCowin is hitting .267 with nine homers, six triples, 22 doubles, 75 RBIs. 77 runs and is 20-of-25 in stolen bases in 133 games. His OPS is .824 (.384 on-base percentage plus .440 slugging).
McCowin was born in Marietta, Ga., then moved to Atlanta. He came to Fort Wayne while in grade school when the family came to take care of his ailing grandfather.
Mikhail attended Irwin Elementary and Memorial Park Middle School. Having started baseball at age 4 in Georgia, he continued it at Elmhurst Little League in Fort Wayne and played travel ball for AWP.
At Luers, he was led by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Gary Rogers.
“He definitely taught me resilience,” says McCowin of Rogers. “He brought out a lot of my competitive energy. I was always fighting against myself to be better being a sponge and asking questions.”
There was also plenty of repetition.
McCowin, 21 (he turns 22 on May 20), lives with his mother Kimberly, father Michael and sister Alexis (19). Older siblings Makesha, Sudedra and Michael are out-of-state — Sudedra in Ohio and the others in Texas.