BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Governor Livingston senior class had somewhat of a final sendoff on Friday, May 8, when former Mets and Yankees all-star pitcher Dwight Gooden joined a Zoom call to talk with players and coaches. The student-athletes were able to ask Gooden questions about his career, work ethic, and opinions on baseball today.
The call was set up by George Devanney, father of Ryan Devanney, a senior pitcher on this year's squad. George Devanney, a lifelong Mets fan, had been in contact with Gooden throughout quarantine and decided he would be a perfect fit to talk to the senior class.
“I’ve witnessed the ups and downs and the struggles Gooden has encountered through his life,” George Devanney said, “Knowing what our seniors have been going through, it seemed natural to ask Gooden to speak with the group to help lend some life perspective while telling some great stories, answering their questions and inspiring hope. He did just that and I’m proud to call him a friend.”
Gooden spent over an hour fielding questions from the audience, emphasizing work ethic and mentality to reach the next level. He also pointed out the fact that paths change and one must adjust to be successful in anything. “I used to love to hit,” Gooden said on Friday’s call, “but my talent was in pitching, and I knew that was my ticket to the Major Leagues.”
This message was very important for the seniors, all of whom are embarking on a new chapter in their lives, to hear. Making adjustments can be very beneficial in a person's life, on or off the field, and this message especially resonated with senior outfielder Sean McCulloch. “It is important to make adjustments during the game of baseball because it shows that you are ready for anything that comes at you, such as an unexpected pitch or pitcher.” McCulloch’s experience on the call with Gooden furthered his beliefs. “It got me even more into the mental side of the game, and made me really learn how many different ways you can contribute by making adjustments.”
Bringing Gooden on to talk to the seniors not only helped with planning for the future, but was especially interesting for the coaching staff, most of whom grew up watching Gooden. Head coach Chris Roof said, “Even though I’m a huge Yankees fan, Doc, Daryl Strawberry and Don Mattingly were my idols when I was 12/13 years old and to be able to talk to Doc personally was a cool experience.” Roof also added he had posters of Gooden in his childhood room, so being able to talk to him was a surreal experience.
The Governor Livingston baseball squad could not have the season they wanted, a season in which they would win some games, but more importantly, make memories with their closest friends. However, getting on call weekly is something Roof tried to organize to keep morales as high as possible. Having Gooden join the call was a special opportunity for the seniors, and a memory they will not forget.