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‘I’m just fired up’: Bloomington’s Irvin set to face Twins Wednesday

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Family members had the date circled for about a month, counting down the days and hoping there would be no rainouts to adjust the schedule.

Washington Nationals righthander Jake Irvin, a Bloomington native, will face his hometown Twins for the first time in his career Wednesday at Nationals Park.

"I know for my friends and family, it's me throwing against the Twins and then the Wolves at night," Irvin said. "It's cool, dude. I'm just fired up. Growing up, the dream was always to play for the Minnesota Twins. Now having the opportunity to pitch against them, it's crazy how it all comes full circle."

Irvin grew up as a big Twins fan. His family had season tickets at the Metrodome and Target Field — "The love and passion started at the Dome," he said — and he remembers skipping school for Opening Day and playoff games.

"I was a huge Michael Cuddyer fan," said the 27-year-old Irvin. "I loved Michael Cuddyer. I liked Nick Punto a lot because he was a utility guy that played everywhere in the field. Growing up, I was a huge fan of defense. I loved watching web gems at night. Nick Punto was fun to watch. I liked Pat Neshek too. I like the sidearm and being from Minnesota."

Irvin, in his second major league season, has posted a 3.91 ERA through his first nine starts with 38 strikeouts in 50⅔ innings.

When he was in high school at Bloomington Jefferson, the 6-6 pitcher turned heads when he attended a pro showcase at Kauffman Stadium in 2014, and he showed a curveball that remains his best off-speed pitch. The Twins took him in the 37th round of the 2015 amateur draft, which Irvin said was a special moment for him and his family, before he pitched at Oklahoma.

"In high school, my senior year is when I got to be pretty good," Irvin said. "I think even then it's still a dream. I had the confidence I could play at the professional level, but going through all the work in college and the minor leagues, man, I don't know if that high school kid would've been prepared for this."

Irvin was a fourth-round pick in 2018 and his fastball velocity continued to tick up to the mid-90s. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2020, after pitching at the Nationals' alternate site in the pandemic-shortened season, which he now calls a "big blessing in disguise."

"They say sometimes guys throw harder coming back from Tommy John, but that's not because you had surgery, and your arm is fixed," he said. "It's because of the daily diligence and the work you put in for 15 months."

Irvin, one of 12 Minnesotans on a big-league roster this season, is trying to approach Wednesday's start like all the others. He knows it will mean more afterward.

"Being a part of the small MLB fraternity is cool, but being a part of the Minnesota fraternity too that's been up here, it's pretty sweet," Irvin said. "Definitely something I don't take for granted."