By Ray Negron
If you are a true baseball fan and you hear someone ask, “Is there a doctor in the house?” Then you know they are talking about Dwight “Doc” Gooden. In New York, he was referred to as Dr K., one of the most beloved sports figures to ever play in the sports capital of the world.
No matter what problems Doc has confronted, you always wanted to believe in him. When he was with the Mets and he had his issues, whether you were a fan, a player, or his employer, you never wanted to give up on him because you felt so close to him. People of that era have always said that Doc was the most generous celebrity of that time. He would literally give you the shirt off his back. When he was making his millions, he took care of all of his family and quite a few of his friends. That’s just who he was. When he heard that there was someone in need because of bad luck, Doc just felt that he had to help. This is not me telling a “lollipop” story, this is me just telling it like it is about a guy that has fallen down on many occasions and like many of us, manages a way to get back on his feet.
Today the good Doctor is found in St. Petersburg Florida participating in Spring training as a pitching coach. He was hired as a special instructor to work with the pitchers for a team from Japan called J.R. East. They are a part of the Japanese industrial league, which is basically Japan’s minor league.
J.R.East is the company that makes the bullet train, the world’s fastest train. It’s no coincidence that Gooden used to ” own” arguably the worlds best fastball.
However, the reason the J.R. East wanted Gooden was not because of his fastball, but because of “lord Charles” which was the nick name for Dr. K’s curve ball. Imagine being a hitter waiting for Gooden’s one hundred mile an hour fastball and being surprised by his incredible curveball instead. In 1984 thru 1986 Dr. K was considered baseballs best pitcher and every time he started a game, Shea Stadium was usually full. The one thing that most people don’t know about Gooden is that he happens to be a very big baseball fan and has always had a hunger to learn as much as he can about the game. When working with the great pitching coaches he just couldn’t suck in enough information. Between Mel Stottlemyre and Billy Connors and other pitching “gurus” he feels that he really has learned as much as anyone could possibly learn -plus the fact that he had this God given talent.
When J.R.East manager Tetsuo Horii was told by team advisor Richard Seko that maybe they could get Gooden to work with the pitchers, Horii couldn’t have been more excited. Pitching coach Koji Yamamoto has also been very excited with Dr. K’s tireless work ethic when it came to the young pitchers. Even though Gooden doesn’t speak Japanese, his communicating skills in showing pitching grips and arm angles became just as effective. To see the faces of the young pitchers when they see Gooden’s approval after successfully delivering pitches that Dr K had taught them makes for a warm moment. Even though these players are young, they have learned the legend of Dr K and love to have him there.
J.R.East will be playing games against several independent teams at Walter Fuller Baseball Center and Huggins Stengel Park, which was the spring home of The New York Yankees from 1925 till 1960 and of course the spring training home of Doc Gooden and the New York Mets. Naturally, this is almost like a homecoming for Dr. K so this weekend Shawn Drouin, head of the St. Petersburg Tasco teen program (which is the same youth program that the great Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner used to visit back in the nineties) at Huggins-Stengel Field and Rick Kriseman, the mayor of St.Petersburg, will be retiring one of Gooden’s Mets Jerseys. It will be placed in a closed off original locker from the original locker room never to be worn again. After the ceremony, Gooden, along with manager Horii, hitting coach and former 13 year major league veteran Luis Alicea, and some of the players will be conducting a baseball clinic for the area youth. Former home run champion Dante Bichette and Japanese home run champion and Rays announcer, Orestes Destrade will also participate. Thanks to J.R.East and Doc Gooden, Baseball is alive and well in St.Petersburg – One day at a time.
And Baseball America. A powerful and inspirational speaker, he passionately shares his amazing journey, revealing his experience with the Bronx Bombers, special relationship with Steinbrenner and what it was like to hang around some of baseball’s greats.
For more information about Ray please check out his website batboyhelps.com