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Legendary South Kitsap baseball coach Goodwin dies

Elton Goodwin, who guided South Kitsap to three state baseball championships, died Thursday. He guided the Wolves to a 491-136 record from 1976-2003. - File Photo
Elton Goodwin, who guided South Kitsap to three state baseball championships, died Thursday. He guided the Wolves to a 491-136 record from 1976-2003.
— image credit: File Photo

Fiery. Successful. Tireless.

Those are some of the adjectives used to describe legendary South Kitsap baseball coach Elton Goodwin, who died Thursday from complications resulting from hip surgery earlier in the week. He was 63 years old.

In addition to coaching, Goodwin taught special education at the high school.

“I think the biggest thing about Elton was he just cared so deeply about kids,” South athletic director Ed Santos said. “Kids that played for him, kids at school. You can see how many people he touched because there are sons and daughters of former Elton players here.”

Cully Ecklund, who was a pitcher on Goodwin’s first state championship team in 1983 and now lives in Montesano, shared similar sentiments.

“He was probably a mentor to a lot of students, not just baseball people,” he said. “He was like a dad to a lot of guys.”

Goodwin guided the Wolves to three state championships and had a 491-136 record from 1976 to 2003. His 1996 team, which featured future major-league players Willie Bloomquist and Jason Ellison, went undefeated (23-0). Goodwin also won 17 Narrows League and two Olympic League titles during his tenure.

Ecklund saw him earlier this year when the 1983 squad was inducted into the Kitsap Sports Hall of Fame.

“He’s one of those guys who is so vibrant that I thought he would be around forever,” Ecklund said. “It would be nice to have some of that energy.”

Goodwin, who served as an assistant baseball coach last spring at John Sedgwick Junior High, remained active in retirement. Ecklund vividly pictures his former coach in his favorite attire, overalls, chopping wood at his home in Olalla or going hunting.

He also was a stickler for details. Goodwin was proud that his 1983 team won a championship despite not hitting a home run that season. He stressed fundamentals, strong defense and aggressive — but not reckless — baserunning. Ecklund believes Goodwin, who was inducted into the Washington State Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1997, was successful because of that.

“If we needed a bunt, you better put it down,” he said. “I think that’s why Elton was so successful. He stressed the little things.”

In a 2008 interview with the Independent, scout Dave Ryles said Davis, which South defeated 2-1 in the title game, and the 2006 Jackson team were the two best squads he had seen since he began scouting the Northwest in 1980.

After all, the Pirates were not just a good high school program. They were nationally ranked and featured right-handed pitcher Todd Stottlemyre, who pitched in the major leagues from 1988 to 2002, and Montie Phillips, a ninth-round selection by Kansas City as an outfielder in 1983. The supporting cast for the Yakima school, which entered the game with a 24-0 record, was nearly as impressive.

“I was hoping Elton wouldn’t get embarrassed,” said Ryles, adding that Goodwin is one of the two or three best high school coaches he has seen in the state. “That’s one of the top two or three things that really shocked me.”

Ryles, who worked for the Philadelphia Phillies at the time, said that is not only because of Davis’ talent, but he said South was not even expected to advance to state.

Even Goodwin acknowledged the win was improbable.

“They were ranked in the top 10 nationally,” Goodwin said in 2008. “We were totally David and Goliath.”

Goodwin never relayed that message to his players, though. And second baseman Andy Kimple hit a 3-2 pitch into right-center field for a triple that brought home the winning run. It was the first state championship for the Wolves since the boys basketball team won it in 1950.

“It was the most unbelievable thing I’ve experienced in my life,” Goodwin said. “To face someone you didn’t think you had a chance against. We had a good high school baseball team, but we weren’t even close.”

The 1996 team might have been his best and the 2003 version sent him into retirement as a champion, but Goodwin said neither of those titles were as special as his first.

“We just didn’t have any great, great baseball players,” he said. “We just had good baseball players who wanted to win.”

And a coach who settled for nothing less.

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