Goforth and ProsperAugust 2, 2012
David Goforth (Brew_Crew72) remembers the moment.
When a pitcher uncorks a pitch with such violent velocity it makes a radar gun electrify, you catalog the event and let it linger.
“I remember the game and the year, during summer ball going into my junior year of high school,” said Goforth, a former seventh round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011 out of the University of Mississippi. “I was always around 86, 88, maybe 90 (mph). The Southern Miss coach had his radar gun out, and out of nowhere he said I was hitting 92, 93, even 95 a couple times.”
While Goforth has a lasting image of that breakthrough on the bump, he has no explanation for the sudden jolt in octane to the plate.
“I wasn’t doing anything different,” said Goforth. “Maybe my arm grew into my body and something happened development-wise that I wasn’t aware of. But from that day on, the velocity has been there.”
Goforth’s pitching prowess truly was an overnight sensation. His prep career at Neshoba Central (MS) High School began as a freshman playing second base, dabbling on the mound in JV games only. There was more mound time as a sophomore, but his stuff wasn’t worthy to be labeled top notch starter stuff. But that moment, that breakthrough, that amped up game changer sent Goforth into a collegiate career only a select few can fantasize into something tangible.
“It’s almost surreal because as a kid, you always dream about playing high school baseball, then playing college ball,” said Goforth. “I was always a big Atlanta Braves fan growing up, and I would be in our living room showing everybody different batting stances. Baseball has been ‘it’ since I was a little kid.”
While his portrayal of his idol in the box, Chipper Jones, was spot-on, Goforth was now refocused on trying to mimic the likes of his favorite Braves hurlers. There was some instant success working out of the Ole Miss bullpen his freshman campaign, only to watch his triumphs take a screeching detour one season later.
“There was just something missing, I wasn’t getting the results when I went out and pitched,” said Goforth. “I was getting hit around, giving up a lot of runs. There was something I needed to get guys off my fastball. Some guys knew that I didn’t have anything to beat them, so they would be sitting on a fastball.”
The learning curve for Goforth was an abrupt awakening. His off-speed pitches and breaking ball were “just average and OK, nothing special.” Determined to add to his arsenal, Goforth set forth to expand his repertoire.
“During the offseason, my high school coach and I started playing around and developed a cutter,” said Goforth. “I brought it with me that fall, told my coaches at Ole Miss that I have a new pitch, and the first bullpen I threw they said ‘We can work with that.’
“I kept working on it, and besides my fastball, it turned out to be the best pitch that I have.”
Still able to push his new pitch up there with some sizzle behind it, Goforth was able to mix and match his delivery, keeping hitters guessing instead of camping on his bread and butter heat.
“It’s not like high school, where a guy who throws in the 90’s, you’re not throwing anything but fastballs blowing kids away,” said Goforth. “But as you go up in levels, the competition you play against is getting just as good as you are, and sometimes, maybe even better.
“It’s very humbling and it makes you have to make pitches. You have to actually pitch; you can’t just stand up there, rear back and try to throw as hard as you can. It doesn’t matter how hard you throw it, guys are still going to find a way to hit it.”
Back on track and pitching with refined weapons, Goforth caught the attention of the Major League scouts, and the Cleveland Indians gave the Rebels pitcher an opportunity to showcase his talents on an even bigger stage when they selected the right-hander in the 31st round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.
“I thought about it, but when I say I thought about it, it was about a day, day and a half to make my decision,” said Goforth. “My red-shirt sophomore season was one of the lower points in my career…I lost all my confidence. Every time I went out there I thought I was going to get hit before I even threw a pitch to home plate. I knew if I jumped straight into pro ball, the competition gets better and with my confidence at that level I probably would not have done well at all, it probably would have made it worse.
“I decided it was best for me to go back to school, learn things, and get better at the things I needed to get better at. Hopefully when the next year rolled around, someone would want to take me again.”
Wishful thinking evolved into reality when the Brewers jumped at the chance to snag Goforth the following June. His rookie seasoning in Helena was all bullpen duty producing mixed results. After earning a promotion to the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers this season and a switch to a starting assignment, Goforth rediscovered his inner comfort zone firing away at Midwest League hitters.
“My confidence now is great,” said Goforth. “I feel like the first half of this season I had some ups and downs. I felt like I threw the ball well, but there are a couple of outings I would like to take back. But this past month, I feel like I’ve thrown the ball better than I ever have. I feel confident in all of my pitches, even my changeup, and I feel like I can throw my pitches anywhere in the count.”
The gas Goforth used to toss on practically every pitch gave way to location pitches with movement and bite. His curveball and changeup are still under construction in Appleton, but Goforth’s new vocation is now location.
“The biggest issue for me coming into the season was keeping the ball down in the strike zone, not elevating the fastball, because anybody can hit that, especially a high fastball, they’re going to hit it a long way,” said Goforth. “I’m pleased, and the confidence is definitely there.”
As his surname states, David Goforth is still a young man hoping to prosper on a Major League mound some day. Whether it’s starting or providing relief makes no matter to this 23-year-old strong-armed hurler.
“The day you get drafted and you realize you do have a chance and an opportunity; it kind of puts everything into perspective,” said Goforth. “That’s all any of us needs is an opportunity and a chance. Being here today shows that I have that opportunity.
“Whatever happens, happens. But I’m going to do everything that I can to keep that dream alive.”
(PHOTOS BY BRAD KRAUSE)