‘He’s above and beyond’: How Nick Goodwin hits expectations out of the park

Freshman Nick Goodwin throws the ball during the game on March 20, 2021, against New Mexico at Tointon Family Stadium. ( Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

Freshman Nick Goodwin is no stranger to success on the diamond. Goodwin graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park last spring and was the No. 6 ranked baseball recruit in the state.

He was ranked the 2nd best shortstop in the state of Kansas as well.

But for Goodwin, the game wasn’t about the rankings.

“I was never big into ranking like that,” Goodwin said. “I never went to the events like PBR or Perfect Game where they get too caught up in ranks. There are plenty of guys out there that don’t get enough attention that could be way better than the guys that are ranked up there.”

Goodwin did not get to showcase his talents much during his senior season with the rise of COVID-19 across the U.S. The Kansas native found out about the cancelations while on vacation with his friends — he was the only one that had the opportunity to play at the next level, too.

“I was actually on vacation with some of my buddies and every single one of them is on the baseball team, but none of them were going to go on to play college baseball so I was really the only one that was going to get to play again,” Goodwin said. “It was not a good situation. Everyone was bummed because we were supposed to be really good that season and that was a missed opportunity that we’re going to get back.”

Without a senior season, Goodwin needed to find ways to stay active and productive with his baseball career. He was able to do so with the Ban Johnson summer baseball league in the Kansas City metro area.

“Even if my season gets canceled that doesn’t mean I can’t just not play baseball,” Goodwin said. “I need to get in the batting cage, I need to get in the weight room to be able to better myself to come into a university like Kansas State to get a chance to play.”

With the work put in during the summer, Goodwin is making an impact on the field. He is batting .295 on the year – which is No. 6 on the team — and is tied for second with 26 hits on the year. The freshman also hit four home runs so far this season with 14 RBIs and leads the team in stolen bases with seven.

“I feel like I’ve played well,” Goodwin said. “Baseball is a mental sport, and it’s a game of failure, and you can’t get too caught up in your time at your last at-bat. … I know this last weekend, I didn’t play as well as I would have liked but you can’t get caught up in that stuff. You have to keep moving forward to the next at-bat and keep trying to piece together good at-bats but all-in-all I think I’ve done pretty well.”

He also credits the coaches at Kansas State for giving him a chance.

“I think I just have to give that one to the coaches,” Goodwin said. “I think they are doing a fantastic job with going out there and finding guys like us. Obviously, I think you have to throw work ethic in there as well. I know personally, I’ve been working my tail off this season and in the off-season, and even last summer to get myself physically and mentally.”

Goodwin wasn’t the only person who saw his potential at the next level — St. Thomas Aquinas head coach Lorne Parks shared the same thoughts as Goodwin.

“At Aquinas, he was a good student and was responsible for his academics and his play on the field,” Parks said. “He is the kind of kid who comes in every day to get better.”

With the lack of a senior season, some may think that would be a set-back for athletes competing at the next level, but Parks says it was more motivation for Goodwin.

“He is very motivated,” Parks said. “He was motivated in the conditioning that we did throughout the winter. When he steps on the field, he’s the type of guy that expects a lot out of himself and he just comes in every day wanting to get better.”

Even though Goodwin has moved on from Aquinas, that hasn’t stopped Parks from keeping an eye on his former player.

“We keep an eye on him,” Parks said. “Not so much watching but we keep track of his stats to see how he’s doing and he’s been productive this first part of the season but that’s just Nick. I know that if his stats drop he’s really hard on himself and he wants to get better for himself, his teammates, and his coaches so I’m not surprised at all with him playing well right now.”

With the level of success that Goodwin has had so far this season, Parks says he isn’t surprised with Goodwin’s production.

“This is something we would expect to see,” Parks said. “As coaches, we were really looking forward to watching him his senior year and that didn’t happen but he’s that guy, he’s an amazing competitor, he’s got great pop in the bat, and he’s just really intense. Everything he’s doing now does not surprise us at all.”

Parks was not the only coach to speak highly of Goodwin’s play so far this season as K-State head coach Pete Hughes echoed some of Parks’ comments.

“We’ve asked him to do a lot since day one,” Hughes said. “He’s above and beyond where a freshman should be at this level of baseball. College baseball is at an all-time high as far as the level of play goes and the learning curve for kids right out of high school is pretty steep right now and for Nick to maneuver around that and perform as well as he has right out of the gate is amazing.”

Hughes said the biggest testament to Goodwin’s character is his resistance and strive to continue to get better when in the slump of a bad stretch of games.

“The biggest struggle for Nick is to deal with the struggles that come with this game with the amount of success he had right out of the gate,” Hughes said. “It may look easy to him but it is inherent that you are going to fail at this game but it’s how you figure out the failures and how you get out of those ruts that define you as a college baseball player but I couldn’t be happier with Nick right now.”

Goodwin was an early target for Hughes and the K-State baseball staff. Even without a senior season, Goodwin had no trouble catching the eye of the K-State coaches.

“We identified him the first summer I was hired, which was his junior year,” Hughes said. “He played for ‘Building Champions’ which is one of the top traveling teams in the state and we identified him that fit our profile. He was athletic, he could run, he could hit, he could swing the bat well and he’s a great kid from a great family and he checked all the boxes we were looking for.

“He made a huge jump after he committed to us and it’s quicker than we anticipated so he came on campus and he was game ready and we saw that the fall of his senior year with the jump he was able to make physically and mentally and he was one of the first kids we signed as a staff.”

Goodwin has adjusted well to the college lifestyle, even though he hasn’t had a typical freshman experience.

“I think it’s been awesome so far,” Goodwin said. “I’ve enjoyed every second of it and I’m just happy to be able to get on the field every day. I mean there is nothing more than I can ask for. I’m having a blast and I’m having a good time obviously playing against some of the best competition in the country right now and there’s not much more I can ask for.”

Goodwin is an interesting position as a collegiate athlete as both his father and uncle played baseball professionally, which was a big motivator for him growing up.

“My dad was actually my coach all the way up until high school,” Goodwin said. “Once I got into high school my uncle took over so I played for those two my whole life and I’ve gotten a lot of good stuff from those guys so I think it’s fair to say that baseball is in my blood.”

With Goodwin being the new kid on the block as a true freshman playing some of the best ball on the team right now, he wants fans to know that he is more than just a jersey on the field.

“I’m very dedicated to what I do,” Goodwin said. “I’m passionate and caring and I like to have fun. I just want to shout-out the K-State family because they come out to our games and I appreciate all the support that they’ve given us and I just want to encourage everyone to keep coming out to our games.”