This was supposed to be the stage where Richie Goodenow showcased his pitching. But it turns out he can hit, too.
The left-hander transferred to Lipscomb from Vanderbilt with one season of college eligibility remaining in large part to pursue more opportunities on the mound and to improve his stock for this year’s Major League Baseball draft. But the results haven’t been exactly what he’d hoped for: He was 0-5 with a 5.75 ERA in six starts heading into last weekend’s series at North Florida. Fortunately for the Nashville native, however, he’s produced with his bat, leading the team with a .348 batting average, 13 RBIs, two home runs and six doubles.
“I just figured I can help the team out, coming back and trying to hit again,” said Goodenow, who was primarily a relief pitcher at Vanderbilt. “If I didn’t feel like I could help my team hitting, then I wouldn’t do it.”
In fact, he’s one of a few local collegiate baseball players dabbling as two-way threats.
Just down the bench at Lipscomb is Josh Chism, a junior college transfer who hit .397 while going 11-1 on the mound in 2009 at Itawamba (Miss.) Community College. This season he’s more committed to playing third base. But Chism, whose .344 batting average puts him behind only Goodenow, has also pitched twice in relief.
Across town at Belmont, Nate Woods is finishing up a solid four-year career. He broke school records for home runs (20) and RBIs (78) in 2010. When he’s not in the outfield or a DH, he’s pitching (though he’s off to a slow start this season, at 2-4 with a 7.76 ERA in six starts).
Middle Tennessee State has a track record of collecting two-way players. The latest Blue Raider to do both is outfielder Justin Guidry, who’s hitting .337 and has made three relief appearances.
MTSU coach Steve Peterson said he recruits dual threats. Especially at non-BCS programs, where there are fewer scholarships to offer, two-for-one players are valuable and rare.
“A lot of kids have the ability to be two-way players, but it leaves them to where they don’t reach their fullest potential in either one of those two. That’s why it has become less common in my opinion,” longtime Belmont coach Dave Jarvis said.
The general consensus is that those who pitch and hit — and play the field, in some cases — have to be willing to put in the time, possess the mental focus and protect their arms to find success.
“There’s a lot of work involved,” Chism said. “We have to do the pitching workouts, and we have to take our cuts and play defense.”
There’s also the art of finding that right fit for an everyday player slotted in the rotation of starting pitchers. Woods starts on Saturdays, and Goodenow is being shifted from Friday starter to the bullpen (temporarily) to a possible Sunday starter. While both players hit on days they pitch, their main focus is on the mound. That can soak up a lot of concentration and drain the players physically.
“To use one of your best [offensive] guys that’s a weekend starter for you, that’s tough because you have to run the bases, and so many things can happen,” Lipscomb coach Jeff Forehand said. “Not playing a position and just pitching and DH-ing, I think, is a lot easier than pitching and playing a position.”
But there are some, like Chism, who prefer to be all over the diamond — in the field, on the mound and at the plate. That separates him from most.