Goff thankful for a return to sports

Kevin Taylor Special to the Democrat
After catching a fly ball in a game during the shortened 2020 high school baseball season Ty Goff is set to pull a ball out of his glove. Goff is currently playing America Legion baseball.

FORT SMITH — Ty Goff strodes toward the dish at Forsgren Field. The low hum of traffic moves swiftly along Highway 71, linking south Fort Smith with Greenwood and, after a few turns and stop lights, Goff’s hometown in Booneville.

Ball one.

Goff settles into the dish in the left-handed batters box. A light breeze sweeps through Forsgren Field, making the 91 degree weather seem manageable.

Two pitches later, Goff lines a sharp single to right.

Two months from now, Goff hopes he’ll be running for touchdowns as part of first-year coach Doc Crowley’s Bearcats’ football team. Like the rest of the country, the Booneville standout spent the last two months of the 2019-20 school year watching TV, playing video games, and doing all of his school work from home.

Last month, however, Governor Asa Hutchinson pulled back on some of the limitations COVID-19 brought with it, declaring American Legion baseball teams could field a season.

Goff grabbed his glove.

By the time Fort Smith’s two legion programs, Trey Prieur’s Sportsmen and Shea Hamilton’s Forsgren squads had filled their rosters, Goff had a jersey, a schedule, and new teammates.

“That’s one of the things we love about Legion baseball,” Hamilton said. “Instead of just playing with your high school team, you get to play with kids from all over the region — guys that you’ve read about in papers and guys that you’ve seen play in other sports, too.

“There are guys in Oklahoma that you’ve heard about, but really don’t know.”

A Bearcat from birth, Goff’s 18U Forsgren team includes players from Greenwood, Van Buren, Southside, Northside and Alma. There are also players from Howe, Okla., too.

After stumbling out of the gate to the tune of five losses in seven games, Forsgren has won 6-of-9, which includes a heart-stomping win over the 19U Sportsmen team.

Goff saved that game with an inning of spotless relief.

In addition to pitching, he’s also filled in at catcher and played left field.

“It’s a short season, but it’s really been fascinating to me how quickly all of the kids gelled together — coming from all different towns,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got kids coming from Fort Smith, Alma, Greenwood, Spiro, Poteau, Booneville, Waldron, Mansfield … we’ve had them from all over the last four years. I think that’s one of the unique aspects of Legion baseball. You’re basically putting an all-star team together, and it amazes me how fast they become really good buddies over the summer.”

“I love them; they’re a fun group of guys to play with,” Goff said of his teammates. “It’s fun to get away from people you’ve been playing with your whole life. They’re fun guys to be around; they love the game, too.

“It’s fun to be around guys who love the game and play it right.”

Sports family

The Goffs, Trent and Candy, have two sports-crazy sons. Ty’s said he’s excited about playing baseball next spring with younger brother Dax. “He’s a freshman,” Ty said.

Trent Goff is a 1997 Booneville grad; mom Candy graduated from Lavaca High School.

Sports isn’t just about winning, Goff discovered.

“They’re (parents) always pushing you to be the best I can be,” he said. “It’s not just sports, either. It’s hard work and effort; things in general in life. It’s not just about you, either, it’s a team thing. You’ve got to be able to play with other people and get along.

“That’s how you win ball games.”

Purple Reign

Trent Goff once scored four touchdowns for Ken Rippy’s Bearcats during a 1995 playoff win. The elder Goff, who now serves as the school’s superintendent, finished his career with 1,430 yards rushing.

Ty Goff knows the lingo.

“You’re expected to always give a full effort and play your heart out every game,” he said. “It’s just a Booneville mentality. My dad did it; my uncle played there. I’m expected to do it for my senior season.”

Goff said he’s excited about playing for first-year head coach Doc Crowley.

“I love both my coaches,” Goff said. “They’re super good dudes.”