- - Thursday, August 11, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Brian Goodwin played his first professional baseball game in Hagerstown, Maryland, in 2012 at the age of 21.

Since then, he’s played professional baseball in places like Scottsdale, Arizona; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Syracuse, New York, and Margarita Island in Venezuela, over the last five years.

He stepped up to the plate 2,243 times in 603 games.

Before that, Goodwin played college baseball at University of North Carolina and Miami-Dade Community College for two years. Before that, he played football, basketball and baseball in his hometown of Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

Wednesday night, after all those baseball games and at bats, Brian Goodwin got his first major league hit.

Tim Tebow, are you paying attention?

Tebow, the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback from Florida who washed out of the NFL after three seasons, has decided to pursue a career in professional baseball.

The last time Tebow was at the same level that Goodwin was in baseball, it was 10 years ago as a high school junior. And of course with the news that Tebow wants to be a baseball player, the legend and lore about how good a ballplayer he was 10 years ago is growing.

“He had a strong arm and had a lot of power,” former Los Angeles Angels scout Stephen Hargett told WEEI radio in Boston.

“It was just easy for him,” Hargett said. “You thought, ‘If this guy dedicated everything to baseball like he did to football how good could he be?’

“If he would have been there his senior year he definitely would have had a good chance to be drafted.”

Goodwin was drafted twice. The Chicago White Sox drafted him in the 17th round in 2009 out of high school, but he didn’t sign. Two years later, the Nationals made Goodwin their number one draft pick.

Wednesday night, after all those minor league games and at-bats and bus trips, he got his first major league hit – and it was a big deal.

Goodwin said the reaction from his teammates “was amazing. I think some of those guys were more excited than I was. Everybody was ecstatic.”

They were excited because nearly every one of those guys in that dugout knows what it took to get to what is essentially the starting point of a major league baseball career: Your first hit.

Washington Nationals backup first baseman/outfielder Clint Robinson played 921 minor league baseball games. He was good. Robinson hit 141 minor league home runs, drove in 587 minor league RBI and carried a .302 minor league batting average. Yet he had just 14 major league at-bats over those nine years before making the Nationals roster out of spring training last season.

Tim Tebow, are you paying attention?

Guys like Robinson and others know how hard it is to get that first major league hit, and so they were happy for Goodwin.

“Everybody was so happy for him tonight to get his first hit because everybody remembers,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “(Max) Scherzer said, ‘Hey, you remember who your first hit was?’ And I asked Scherzer. He said his first hit was Randy Johnson.

“I asked him if he remembered his first strikeout, and he told me that,” Baker said. “He gave me a name that I didn’t know, which wasn’t as impressive as Randy Johnson. But it was Randy at the end of his career in San Francisco. I’d forgotten he was with San Francisco. But everybody has that moment that you get your first hit, and you never forget it.”

Baker called Goodwin into his office after the game to give him the lineup card from the game. He got the ball from his first hit, and said, “My Mom is outside, so I assume I won’t have it much longer.”

So how did Goodwin feel when finally, after going 0 for 3 Wednesday night with two strikeouts, he drove an 0-2 pitch from Cleveland reliever Zach McAllister into right field for a single?

Was he happy? “To see one get through was kind of a relief for me,” Goodwin said.

Relief. Tim Tebow will likely never feel that relief.

Former major league catcher Chad Moeller, who has been working with Tebow for several months, declared in a statement that Tebow “has the skill set and potential to achieve his goal of playing in the major leagues.” Tebow will reportedly hold a workout sometime in the next month and invite all 30 major league teams.

He should keep the first ball he hits in that workout.

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