CLEVELAND — Red Sox first base coach Tom Goodwin was happy and celebrating along with everyone else in the visitors clubhouse at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, the champagne flowing over his head and body, patting his players on the back and enjoying the reward of winning the AL East division title.
Suddenly there was a pang of emotion, even some pain, but a sense of joy, too, that went through his being. It happens often to him. It’s thoughts of his son, Weslee, who took his own life on June 23, 2014, at the tender age of 20.
Goodwin, who has been instrumental in Boston’s very good running game, often has those isolated moments when he has to collect himself because he’s thinking about his boy. He’s often told his players and fellow coaches that if he’s seen with tears in his eyes he’s alone with his thoughts with a young man he so loved.
Goodwin would have loved to have shared in Thursday’s celebration with Weslee. In his head and his heart, he did.
In what is the worst nightmare a parent can ever experience, Goodwin has gone over things in his head a million times. Who wouldn’t? If he had just spent more time with him, or delved into his life just a little bit more, or maybe have seen more warning signs. But he realized that none of that was going to bring his son back.
Goodwin, 50, was first base coach of the New York Mets at the time.
“We had an off-day [in Milwaukee] and I went out to dinner and I decided, ‘You know what, I’m going to turn my phone off.’ I was going to turn it back on after dinner and that’s what I did,” said Goodwin. “I had a lot of phone messages and I said to myself, ‘Whoa, what’s going on?’ My ex-wife [Staycee] called me and she was hysterical. It was the call you never want to get. I called my other son [Satchel] to make sure he was all right, and he said [Weslee] was gone.
“I had just texted [Weslee] earlier that day. The last thing he texted was, ‘I’m OK, cool.’ I know he wasn’t at a good spot at the time. I spoke to his girlfriend and I think it was more a case of the heroin he was taking that turned him into a different person, but he was cleaning up from what she was saying, so I thought things were better.”
The days and weeks to come were tough.
“It was so hard,” said Goodwin. “I had a strong base from my friends and family in Texas. He was living with me before I left for spring training that year and then moved back with his mother during the season. It happened in June. I had a good group of guys, friends in Texas, and the Mets were outstanding. The Wilpons [Mets owners] were great. They gave me what I needed. The whole organization stepped up for me. That’s why I’ll always hold a special place for that organization because they were with me in the toughest times.
“We’re all still coping with it. My son and Weslee, you know they were brothers and they probably fought a bit when they were young, but they had just begun to come together as not only brothers but friends, so my son is still coping with the loss.
“It was devastating for our family, just having to make those phone calls to my mom and his cousins and his friends and people who cared about him.”
People tell Goodwin, who spent 14 years in the majors as an outfielder for the Dodgers, Royals, Rangers, Cubs, Rockies, and Giants, he shouldn’t beat himself up, but “there was some of that. I just wish I could have been there for him. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about it. It’s never going to go away. I can’t understand it or make sense of it, but I just hope I can help and be there for people who are going through it. I’ll always be there for them. It’s a big problem in the world today. What I would say is love your kids. Get inside their heads. Don’t be afraid to get into their lives. You always want to give them their space to grow, but sometimes it warrants getting close. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions and delve into what’s bothering them.
“He would have loved to have been there [Thursday in New York] and be a part of it,” Goodwin said about the celebration. “They came to New York every year. We had our family time together.”
Goodwin knows that it’s tough for people to react to what happened because nobody really knows what to say or how to comfort someone who has been through it. But that’s OK, Goodwin knows it’s his pain, his agony. He thinks about the positive, the good times he spent with him and things he did with him. He dwells on the cute little boy he raised and all of the joy he had with him rather than the pain of being without him.
It’s moments like that celebration at Yankee Stadium where Goodwin can almost feel his son’s presence, which is why last Thursday felt so good.