A gloomy and windy afternoon fills Brown-Stroud Field, home of Northwestern State baseball. It’s a chilly February day, the clouds stretch across the sky blocking the sun. It’s not the summer weather that baseball thrives in, but that doesn’t matter. College baseball is almost back, and you cannot control the madness once it starts. Coach Spencer Goodwin is all here in body, mind and spirit. He wants his guys to win. He understands what it means to win –– to be the best.
The players are fired up for another practice, hoping time can tick a little faster so that Opening Day arrives, and the first pitch is thrown. A new season, filled with emotions and fireworks from bats slamming baseballs and amazing defensive plays, is almost here.
Spencer knows there’s something special about the B-Stro, as the Natchitoches locals call it. If it’s not the outside porch next to the home team’s dugout that makes this field unique, it’s the hills in and around both dugouts, surrounding the central seating area. This field has seen NSU defeat nationally ranked Louisiana State University in past years. It’s seen student-athletes who have gone on to play professional baseball. Many coaches and fans never leave Natchitoches.
“When you win on this field, it’s magic,” Spencer says.
If you stay in Louisiana long enough, the locals will tell you the magic that lies within the state lines with names like Joe Burrow, Drew Brees, Chris Paul and many others who shaped Louisiana sports –– great athletes like Joe Delaney, a football player who graduated from Northwestern State and played in the National Football League for two seasons. In Natchitoches, you can hear stories of Delaney attempting to save two drowning children in Monroe and tragically passing away. Names like these live in the hearts and minds of people around Louisiana for their excellence on and off the field.
Those athletes were born to be leaders and champions in their own away. Kids who look up to these players would do anything to reach their potential while also making a difference in their community. Spencer was one of them.
No one knows the dreams and desires of young baseball kids better than he does as a former Demon baseball student-athlete who now coaches for his alma mater.
A coach, not a player.
As a young athlete, that’s not the expectation.
What some kids dream about is the opportunity to be a star –– whether in sports, music, acting or something else. Baseball kids dream of playing for a Major League Baseball team, winning the hearts of fans screaming their name, being acknowledged as a great player and enjoying the game.
Growing up in Greenwood, close to the northwest border of Louisiana and Texas, Spencer was a baseball kid through and through. He looked up to former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, an undeniable legend in the baseball world. Spencer wanted to embody the famous Jeter and make his mark on the world.
“For me, the dream of being a baseball player (was) a daily challenge,” writes Jeter in his memoir The Life You Imagine, “not only living that dream but ensuring that it stay(ed) alive.”
Spencer was intrigued to follow in Jeter’s footsteps and keep his dream alive. He became a stand out high school athlete, lettering as a four-year starter at Evangel Christian Academy. Spencer helped lead the Eagles to a state championship in his sophomore and senior seasons. In his senior year, he earned Evangel’s Romy Cucjen Award, given to the player who personifies leadership, discipline and hard work.
Spencer had the tools to be a successful pro and live out the dream he wanted. He just needed someone to see his potential.
He wanted to be like Jeter. He had dreams.
“Reality started to set in my senior year, halfway through when I realized, you know, I wasn’t going to be a professional prospect,” Spencer said. “So honestly, whenever that kind of happened (the mindset) was, let’s just enjoy the rest of the year and compete and try to win every day and then whatever happens.”
No big signing, no celebrations, no big dreams being accomplished.
It was a bummer, but Goodwin still loved the game and played for a collegiate baseball team. When it was time to graduate high school, Spencer began his college baseball career close to home. He attended Bossier Parish Community College in 2014, then transferred to Northwestern State two years later as a shortstop, like Jeter.
In 2017, he received his undergraduate degree and stayed with NSU the next season as a graduate manager. This was a new journey, an unfamiliar one, but one he fell in love with when the time was right.
One day in 2018, Spencer found his own magic.
During his first season as a graduate manager, NSU claimed its first conference tournament championship in school history. Northwestern State defeated the University of New Orleans 7-5 to earn their first Southland Conference tournament trophy. The student-athletes ran onto the field and piled together into a dog pile. The fans were on their feet and the coaches embraced in sweet victory. Somewhere outside that pile, Goodwin found himself taking a look at the life he once had and the life he’s living in now, overwhelmed with emotions in the light of a major milestone.
“This is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” Spencer thought to himself after hoisting the conference championship trophy with his team.
Spencer earned his master’s degree in health and human performance from NSU in May 2019. Since then, he has worked for NSU as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. His goal is to train and provide wisdom to new Demons starting their collegiate baseball career. The timing was right, and Goodwin became the bridge between high school level and collegiate level student-athletes.
In the back of his head, Spencer’s dream was still alive, this time behind the lines.
During his time as a player, he befriended David Fry, former NSU infielder, who was on that championship team. Spencer had the unique opportunity to be David’s coach after playing alongside him for two seasons. After Fry left NSU in 2018, he was drafted in the seventh round of the Major League Baseball by the Milwaukee Brewers. David left his mark and was ready to excel in his craft.
By this time, Spencer was already expressing his coaching techniques for the next generation of baseball players. Spencer felt at home, ready to provide life skills inside and behind the lines for his student-athletes.
“I think the biggest thing is it’s making sure those parents know that they’re not just coming to any school––they’re coming to be a part of our program and our family,” Spencer said.
Maybe he made the right choice to not play professional baseball like his former teammates went on to do. Maybe this was his home after playing the game he loved.
Staying in Natchitoches is Spencer’s focus right now, as the crack of the bat starts practice.