Goodwin has mom, O's in his corner

KEN ROSENTHAL

July 26, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Bells will ring the day Curtis Goodwin makes his major-league debut. The big moment probably won't occur before 1996, but the way Goodwin's mother reacts to his baseball exploits, it's not too early to brace yourself.

"She's got this cowbell that's going to kill me," says the Single-A Frederick Keys center fielder. "I can hear it already. She's had it since I was little. She's going to use it all the way until I get to the big leagues."

Forgive Arterlia Goodwin her exuberance. She raised Curtis and his older brother, James, as a single parent, and changed their lives by moving the family from Oakland, Calif., to a nearby suburb when Curtis was in grade school.

"A lot of guys I grew up with are now either dead or in jail -- or living on the streets with no home," says Goodwin, 20. "If my mother didn't get me out of Oakland, there's no telling where I'd be."

Goodwin says he's lucky. Scouts say he's good. One Orioles official claims he's the fastest player in the organization -- ahead of Brady Anderson, Mike Devereaux and Jeffrey Hammonds -- and maybe the fastest in the minor leagues.

It's nice that Goodwin is second in the minors with 52 stolen bases. It's even better that he's batting .281 and starting to show power. He has more extra-base hits (14) than last season, and his two-run homer was the key hit in last night's Carolina League All-Star Game.

The Orioles are growing enamored of Goodwin -- so enamored they don't want him to return home this winter. At the suggestion of Dr. Lem Burnham, director of the club's employee assistance program, Goodwin might move to Baltimore.

"Every time I go home, there's something going on," Goodwin says -- even though home is San Leandro, Calif., the relatively peaceful Oakland suburb where he attended high school. He says his mother throws "a fit" if he doesn't call regularly, yet even she's not sure he should return.

"I'm not too thrilled when he comes home, either," says Arterlia, a special-education teacher at an Oakland elementary school. "He's a celebrity with a lot of his friends. I don't enjoy him partying. It seems likes he takes care of business better away from home."

Always something going on. Like the death of his 18-year-old cousin Maurice in May. Or the arrest of his brother James, a former University of Washington linebacker, on charges of dealing cocaine last November.

Both events weighed heavily on Goodwin this season. Maurice -- "Squeaky" to those who knew him -- went into a coma after suffering an asthma attack and never recovered. The charges against James, meanwhile, weren't dropped until June.

Goodwin is dedicating his career to Maurice -- "I still see him in my dreams," he says. He talks about two friends from Oakland who got released by their minor-league clubs for disciplinary reasons. And he swears it will never happen to him.

Arterlia, of course, would be waiting.

"I got punished if I did something good," Goodwin says, laughing as he recalls his childhood. "That's a mean lady -- she's crazy. But she's a good mom. She's smart. I could make her my agent if I wanted to."

Just ask Ed Sprague, the northern California scout who signed Goodwin. Sprague nurtured the Orioles' Stanford connection, and he rarely recommends high-school position players for the draft. Goodwin was an exception in 1991.

The Orioles took Goodwin in the 12th round of a draft that eventually could yield an entire outfield -- Mark Smith was the club's first-round pick, and Goodwin's highly regarded Frederick teammate, Alex Ochoa, was the third-round choice.

Goodwin, a tailback in high school, was torn between football at Idaho State and professional baseball. Arterlia wielded his scholarship offer like a weapon. Her first meeting with Sprague did not go well.

"I asked him to leave my house so I could eat lunch," Arterlia says, chuckling. "What they offered Curtis to play ball -- I told him I could have sold him for that when he was born."

Recalls Sprague, "She was just an overprotective mother. Every time I'd go in there, she wouldn't listen to me. He got mad at her. She was saying, 'They're not giving you enough money.' But he told his mother, 'I want to sign.' "

So he did, for a $20,000 bonus plus the cost of a college education. Rest assured, Goodwin will reach the majors. How could he face his mother otherwise?

She's bringing her bell to Frederick next week.

She can't wait to ring it at Camden Yards.

"Are you crazy?" she asked. "I'm not getting it bronzed until after I shake it in the major leagues."

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