Elton, we’re gonna miss you

The news is really sad today.

Elton Goodwin died Thursday night around 10 p.m. He underwent hip replacement surgery and reportedly died of a heart attack at the hospital the following day. He was 63.

I still can’t believe it.

His record coaching baseball at South Kitsap spoke for itself, but Elton won’t be remembered for the three state championships and all those victories or for sending countless players to college and professional baseball. Elton will be remembered for being the person that he was.

Eric Canton, current South Kitsap football coach, was one of the many individuals impacted by Elton.

When I reached Canton this morning, he was sitting alone in the third-base dugout at the Wolves’ baseball field.

“He calls me every Thursday or Friday to chew me out,” Canton said. “First he’d chew me out, then he tells me he loves me.”

I’m supposed to write his obit for The Sun, and it’s going to be tough. They say there’s no crying in baseball, but I’m having a hard time keeping my eyes dry right now.

I’m going to talk to some more of Elton’s former players and colleagues. You’ll find the story online later tonight and in the print editions on Saturday.

In the meantime, here’s a part of a story that I wrote about Goodwin in 2003, the year he retired from coaching:

Keeping It Real

If you’ve followed this story at all, you know that it reeks of tears, emotions and the win-one-for-the-coach storyline. You’re familiar with “Track it, frame it!” and a million other things that the ultra-hyper Goodwin shouts during games. You know about “The Beast,” the 1971 Ford truck he drives and his passion for cutting wood, fishing and hunting. You know about all the ex-Wolves who’ve gone on to play professional and college baseball.

Most of all, you should know that there’s nothing phony about Goodwin, whose desire and dedication overflows to his players. What you see is what you get: a highly colorful, down-to-earth guy who won 491 games and three state titles in 28 years as a head coach.

He’s a 52-year-old throwback with a tremendous passion for the game. He demands that his players work as hard as he and his assistants Don Smith and Jim Fairweather, yet he allows them to be themselves.

On the bus ride home after winning the state title, center-fielder Cody McCulley might have come up with the line of the year when the Port Orchard Police escorted them into town: “Here we are in the meth capital of the United States; you’d think they’d have something better to do.”

There are a lot of laughs when you’re around the South Kitsap baseball team.

The players aren’t afraid to be human. It’s a reflection of the program that Goodwin, a 1969 SK grad, has built.

“It’s a key to winning,” Goodwin said. “You have to have fun. You have to laugh. You have to let the kids know they’re OK when you say something.

“When we’re in between the lines, they’re playing. When I’m coaching, I’m coaching. But when it’s time to giggle and laugh, that’s OK. That’s what makes team. That’s what makes us come together.”

Goodwin’s been known to tell some funny stories and deliver some funny lines, too.

“It’s good to let them know that I’m on their level,” he said. “At the same time, you need to be a coach who has high standards. My guys know when I’m pissed. They know when to shut up. Just like (his twin sons) Jeff and Joel. They know when to back off.

“I coach like a parent. Enough is enough. You better get it going or your ass is sitting. Sometimes it’s my look. They know not to mess with me.”



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