Sports

Goodwin's last stand?

Reflecting back on a 28-year career, longtime South Kitsap baseball coach Elton Goodwin and trusty sidekick Don Smith have experienced thrills and heartbreak— along with more than 300 players who have passed through the program.

Whether this year’s squad makes it through today’s playoff game(s), or not, Goodwin has enough memories to last a lifetime.

When June 13 hits and Goodwin officially retires from teaching and coaching, it’s safe to assume he’s going to going to reflect more on his professional career while he sits in his boat casting rods in a lake or river somewhere.

With the exception of only a small handful of former players, Goodwin said he cherishes every you man who donned the trademark SK pinstripes.

But he can’t look back without discussing his fondest and most disappointing moments as coach for the South Kitsap Wolves, not to mention the greatest players to come through the program.

“The first superstar Don and I had was Glen Johnson,” Goodwin said. “He could flat out throw the ball.”

Johnson is the only SK pitcher to hurl two complete-game no-hitters in a career, let alone a season.

Two years later a 6-foot-3 horse named Don Nicolet made life miserable for pitchers and as an outfielder. “He’s still playing ball today somewhere,” Goodwin said. “He was a stallion. Ran everything down in the outfield. Signed with Cleveland and played three years but couldn’t hit the curveball.”

Goodwin’s reputation for his finely tuned program didn’t go without hitches.

The 1980 season proved to be the most difficult season in his coaching career. Thoughts of leaving entered his mind.

“That’s probably the hardest team of guys I had,” he said. “They were into themselves and into dope. It was a nightmare.”

The most difficult player Goodwin ever dealt with was a kid named Tyler Brilinski. As a sophomore in 1979 Brilinski was Goodwin’s first every-day starting sophomore. He cranked out a .400 batting average, leading Goodwin to believe he had a superstar on his hands for another two years.

Goodwin said drugs ended his prep playing days.

“Tyler Brilinski had unbelievable talent,” Goodwin said. “But the next year he got into dope heavily and batted .156. He was nothing but trouble, too. I had to get rid of him.”

Brilinski moved to Arizona his senior year and played college ball at Grand Canyon College. He made it all the way up to Triple A Tacoma for the Oakland A’s, but was unable to crack a major league lineup because he was behind a guy named Jose Canseco.

The other players that had given Goodwin so much grief earned reprise in 1981 with a newfound attitude, which carried over into the team’s first Narrows League title.

The rest of the 1980s were grand for Goodwin, with the 1983 state championship win over Davis marking the greatest game he’s ever been a part of.

“That first state title team for sure was the greatest moment of my coaching career,” Goodwin said. “The school hadn’t won a state title in 33 years and we shouldn’t have done it against Davis. We shouldn’t have been there with them, but we were and we hung in there.”

Davis was loaded with five Division I players, including pitcher Todd Stottlemeyre — though he didn’t pitch in the championship game.

Here was a scrappy SK team, the only Goodwin team without a home run.

Goodwin said the 1983 and 1996 state title teams had one thing in common that all state champion teams need: timely hitting.

“You have to have the ability to grab a bat and hit in key situations,” Goodwin said. “Also, you need to have your pitchers throw strikes and at least give us a chance. I had Cully Ecklund pitching while they had five pros on their team. He handcuffed them. We made plays and kept ourselves in the game because of that.”

In that game it was Andy Kimple’s triple off of Doug Hayden that scored pinch-runner Steve Nelson from first base in the bottom of the seventh inning to give SK the 2-1 win.

In 1996 it was the Willie Bloomquist, Jason Ellison and Ryan Smith show.

Goodwin said this year’s team is built a lot like the 1996 championship team.

“Besides those three, that team didn’t have a great amount of talent,” Goodwin said. “That team got it done though and they were tough.”

Goodwin only hesitated slightly at No. 5 when he came up with his top five all-time SK players.

“Willie, no doubt is No. 1,” he said. “Ellie (Ellison) is right behind, then Sean (Spencer), then Glen Johnson...I would like to say Brilinski but he never finished with us.”

Other milestones for Goodwin include:

n Biggest player — First baseman Ted Brose earns the honor of Goodwin’s biggest player ever. “Brose was huge. He weighed 300 pounds,” Goodwin said. “He went on to play tackle at (UW).”

n Smallest player — Elton Goodwin has a soft spot for short people and for good reason. But he wouldn’t trade in one of his all-time greatest shortstops for someone taller. In 1983 Danny Wolfe played a role in SK’s championship season. “He’s one of the toughest shortstops I’ve ever coached in my life,” he said. “He was just nails. He could move, he could run. He didn’t hit real high for average but he was all guts and determination.”

n Greatest home run — Goodwin only had to go back a year to pick out the greatest home run he’s seen. “Josh Showers at Cheney Stadium last year (against Woodinville),” he said. “I’ve never seen a ball jump off the bat like that in a fenced type of area. That went out into the parking lot.”

Just behind Showers’ blast is Joel Grey’s shot at Heidleburg Park in 1980.

“Grey hit that home run for the cycle and it went across the road by Fred Meyer.”

n Most disappointing moment — If there is one team Goodwin thinks should have won a state title but didn’t, it’s the 1985 team. Ace pitcher Geoff Curtis entered a regional playoff game against Lake Washington with a 9-0 record and 0.66 ERA. Goodwin argues the umpire squeezed him so tight, he was relegated to throwing just fastballs. “That team should have won it,” Goodwin said. “Curtis was a stud. The umpire squeezed him and never called his curveball for a strike. It was so sad to see this umpire not call strikes. It was a disastrous finish to a great team.”

Runner-up has to go to the 2000 team, which entered its first-round state playoff game against Sehome with a 20-0 record and No. 1 state ranking.

By the end of the day, SK was 10-runned in five innings.

“That’s definitely the most embarrassing game,” he said. “It has to be.”

Highs and lows come with any job. But Goodwin said he leaves with his head held high and with no regrets. He’s accomplished everything he’s wanted to accomplish.

But he’s not done with baseball, and baseball isn’t done with him. Still young in his early 50s, Goodwin said he’s too young to not do anything and baseball is something he knows and continues to learn.

We’ll be seeing Goodwin soon at a diamond near you.

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