FARGO — When Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks starting pitcher Kevin McGovern headed to the mound for the ninth inning last weekend in Geneva, Ill., he didn’t know he was nearing a historic moment — and a bigger moment days later.
The left-hander was focused on finishing the game Saturday night and helping F-M earn a victory against the Kane County Cougars.
“I had no idea I was close to the record at the time,” he said.
McGovern struck out the side in the ninth for the complete-game victory, eclipsing the American Association baseball record for career strikeouts in the process. His 704 punch outs surpassed former Sioux Falls pitcher Ben Moore (2008-11, 2013-14) who had 701 strikeouts in his career.
“I was just trying to go for a complete game,” said McGovern, from Philadelphia. “Little did I know, I was a strikeout away.”
McGovern’s father, John, and older brother, Sean, were in the stands at Northwestern Medicine Field for the milestone.
“It was cool when I heard the announcement, I looked over to my dad and brother,” McGovern said. “It was a really special moment for me. I had a bit of a tear in the eye for my dad and my brother. … It meant the world to me and made the moment even more special.”
Less than a week later, McGovern had another significant moment as the RedHawks transferred his contract to the St. Louis Cardinals organization, F-M announced Thursday, June 10.
The 32-year-old McGovern has played independent baseball for 10 seasons.
“It means a whole lot to me,” McGovern said. “I’ve always said to myself all I wanted is one more opportunity to prove myself. Now, I just have to take that next step in this journey.”
McGovern had a 4-0 record with a 1.40 ERA in four starts with the RedHawks this season. He struck out 37 batters in 32 innings, while walking three.
“It’s definitely a very overwhelming week for me,” McGovern said. “When I got this news, it kind of floored me.”
McGovern is set to join the Cardinals' Class Double-A team in Springfield, Mo.
“I don’t know if a signing from our league could be any more meaningful than this one,” RedHawks manager Chris Coste said. “To have a year like he’s having where he’s probably never been better and is now rewarded for it, it’s truly the perfect example of what independent baseball is all about.”
The RedHawks earned a 9-0 victory against the Milwaukee Milkmen on Thursday, June 10, at Newman Outdoor Field. F-M third baseman Leo Pina had four hits and an RBI to lead the F-M offense. Four RedHawks pitchers combined on a one-hit shutout. Right-hander Ryan Flores earned the victory, pitching four scoreless innings in relief. McGovern was projected to start that game before he was called up.
McGovern is the third F-M pitcher to be moved to a Major League Baseball organization since the start of the regular season. Left-handed starter Tyler Pike and right-handed starter Kevin Herget had their contracts transferred near the end of May. Prior to the season, right-handed starter Frank Duncan was moved to the Colorado Rockies organization. The RedHawks also moved infielder Trace Loehr to an MLB organization earlier this season.
“It certainly is going to be a challenge for us,” Coste said. “The pitchers that we have will compete and they’ll give us a chance to win games. … We will find a way. We have a strong offense that is going to get going. There’s always players out there.”
Coste said he got emotional when he told McGovern he was headed to the Cardinals organization.
“Kevin McGovern is exactly why all these guys are playing here … to keep that dream alive,” Coste said. “Every one of our guys sees Kevin McGovern at the age of 32 get this opportunity, it reminds all of us why we do it.”
McGovern has been on two championship teams during his independent career with the Winnipeg Goldeyes in 2016 and 2017. Now, he’s earned that elusive call-up to a MLB organization.
“This news is life-changing for me,” McGovern said. “It changes my perspective on that grind in independent baseball, it meant something even more because I didn’t give up.”