The Pittsburgh Pirates are experiencing a youth movement, and with those movements come very special moments like Jack Suwinski hitting two walk-off home runs in the same month and not so special, like Rodolfo Castro not running out a play or Diego Castillo making three errors in one game.
The bottom line is, with youth comes a crazy roller coaster of emotions toward an eventual destination. Although the Pirates have some potential above-average Major Leaguers at the higher levels, there is a level where the Pirates have kids just starting their professional journeys. That level is the Dominican Summer League, or the “DSL,” for short.
One of the coaches in the DSL is a former Pirates’ prospect in catcher, Ethan Goforth. Goforth’s playing days may not have come to full fruition, but he is now molding 17-19 year old minds in the Dominican. Goforth played for the Pirates in their system from 2019-21 and was drafted in the 25th round.
“Coaching was always a goal at some point,” said Goforth. “I wasn’t expecting it to happen as fast as it did, but it allowed me to hit the ground running and gave me a great opportunity to learn.”
Being able to turn around from player to coach as rapidly as Goforth did had to be a whirlwind of emotions, but being able to “stay home” in the Pirates’ organization must have been a comforting thought.
“I have had a lot of established relationships already in the organization,” said Goforth on staying with the Pirates. “I feel like I had a pretty good reading on the organization as a player, and to be able to foster those relationships into coaching and to learn even more from those people has been truly a blessing.”
Jumping right into a situation with coaching very young and raw kids is a challenge in itself; you have a lot of guys with wide eyes and their first real exposure to professional life. Coming into this situation, you must have a game plan or philosophy at the ready from jump street.
“You have to start with the basics and teach the game as much as possible,” said Goforth on his philosophy. “These kids do have the wide eyes due to their age, but I’ve never seen a group of kids that are so passionate about playing and coming to the field every day. They honestly make our jobs a little easier with that attitude.”
Back in January of 2021, the Pirates signed outfield prospect Rodolfo De La Cruz and assigned him to the DSL right away. With a year under his belt, De La Cruz has put up some eye-popping numbers in a very limited sample size. In 29 at-bats, De La Cruz has accrued five RBIs, three stolen bases, and a batting average of .379.
“De La Cruz is a hard worker and a fun kid to be around,” said Goforth. “He’s had some really good at-bats and continues to put himself in positions to have success. This is De La Cruz’s second year in the DSL, and he’s learned a lot, and it’s showing.”
As a former catcher, Goforth has spent a ton of time talking to his pitching staff and getting to know the ins and outs of what it takes to be an effective pitcher. As a manager now, Goforth may provide a different aspect that other managers might not.
“I think it provides a good lens, and as a catcher, you’re kind of the manager of the pitching staff,” said Goforth. As a player, I spent a lot of time in the bullpen, and being able to have those experiences in the bullpen and seeing the different processes a pitcher goes through to get ready has been a big help for me.”
Although it is very early into Goforth’s coaching career, he seems to grasp what it takes to mold these young minds into capable ballplayers. Will his effort pay off in the long run? We don’t know yet, but it seems like Goforth and his staff are on the right path to success.