Right-hander Josh Goossen-Brown has established himself as one of the best pitchers on the Wichita Wingnuts staff, and could very well be on his way back to affiliate ball, thanks to his hero, his Uncle Greg Goossen, who has inspired him toward greater excellence.
Introducing Josh Goossen-Brown
A hero. In mythology, this has always been someone who became a legendary figure because of their ability to overcome the most challenging of circumstances. Men like Hercules and Odysseus faced what seemed to be insurmountable odds, yet found a way to overcome, making them heroes for generations to follow.
Over the ages, tens of thousands of men and women have made themselves legends, doing so in a variety of ways. There are those who have become heroes through their incredible military leadership skills, such as George Washington, Joan of Arc, and General Patton. Others have earned admiration for how they have advocated for the forgotten, men and women like Martin Luther King, Jr., Francis of Assisi, and Susan B. Anthony.
Heroes truly come from many walks of life, but are most often someone who is quite close to each one of us. A parent, grandparent, or sibling can become someone to be admired because of their accomplishments or the way in which they have lived their lives. This is true for Wichita Wingnuts right-hander Josh Goossen-Brown. Aspiring to be a professional baseball player since he was a little kid, he has found that his Uncle Greg has been the source of his inspiration as he drives to reach the Major Leagues.
Inspired to Greatness
Greg Goossen played six seasons in the Majors. In 1965 he was first called up by the New York Mets and played four seasons in the Big Apple. In 1969, Greg moved onto the Seattle Pilots and appeared in his final season in 1970, playing with the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Senators. He would spend two more seasons in AAA before deciding to retire at the end of the 1972 season.
Reaching the Major Leagues is an epic journey. Literally tens of millions of kids play baseball each year, and countless millions of adults play in college, in summer leagues, or in town ball. Yet, of all of those who are playing the sport, only about 1,000 will actually play in the highest level of the sport, making the odds of playing with the Mets, Yankees, or any of the other Major League teams about 1 in 100,000. Pretty stiff odds when you consider it.
It was easy to see why Josh Goossen-Brown admired his uncle. Greg Goossen not only made it to the Majors, but played there six seasons, playing against and among some of the greatest names the sport has ever seen, including the dad of Josh’s current manager, Pete Rose, Jr.
Following in the Pathway
His uncle instantly became an inspiration for Josh Goossen-Brown. While playing other sports growing up, baseball was the one where his passions grew and he developed his own aspirations to follow in the footsteps of his uncle.
“I just always loved baseball. I always had a dream of being a professional baseball player; it’s always where I wanted to be. He was always my hero and I just wanted to be like him. That was my dream going to Notre Dame High School; I just wanted to be like him and make it to professional baseball.”
Despite the strong desire, it looked like that goal would end in high school. Josh did not have a lot of success early on, even finding himself demoted to the JV team briefly his junior season. However, he returned to the varsity team later that year, and even started the semi-final game, a contest Notre Dame High School won ono their way to winning the CIF Championship.
In his senior season, the right-hander was named to the All-CIF First-Team, winning 10 games, and also earned Second-Team All-State honors. He had proven to be a huge success on the field and in the classroom as well, graduating with a 3.5 GPA.
An Academic Journey
Josh Goossen-Brown had not only starred as a pitcher, but was an outstanding position player as well, however, he did not generate as much attention from college scouts as one would have thought. He did not get offers to play college baseball but was unwilling to give up on his dream, opting to play ball at Los Angeles Valley College.
There, he helped the team win the Western State Conference South Division Championship and was named the Division Player of the Year. He was also named as a Southern California All-American and honored as a First-Team selection to the All-Western State Conference team. He showed some real prowess in the field, earning Gold Glove honors as well.
The success did earn Josh some notice, and the following year he moved to Cal State-Northridge, where he would continue to excel on the diamond and in the classroom. In his sophomore season, the right-hander hit .275 and was 4-3 on the mound with a 4.74 ERA and 5-saves.
The following season, Josh suffered an injury and was forced to sit out the year, however, his knowledge of the game earned him a spot on the coaching staff, as he served as the team’s bullpen coach. In 2013, he returned to the diamond, and produced both at the plate and on the mound. Goossen-Brown hit .279 with 47-runs scored, which led the team. He was third in the Big West Conference in RBI, and he made no errors in the field. He also tied the Northridge school record for saves in a season with nine.
For his senior season, Josh transferred to the University of San Diego, where he really stepped up his game. In 49-games, the senior hit .314 with 19-runs scored and 27-RBI. He was such a perfect fit for the Toreros, because he could literally play any position and do so with great skill, including catcher, pitcher, third, first, and short.
The Saga Gains Momentum
The senior season for Josh Goossen-Brown proved that he had the skills to be a professional baseball player, and the Chicago White Sox agreed, selecting the right-hander in the 31st round of the 2014 amateur draft. Josh was hoping to be selected to play a position, but was just happy that he was about to enter the professional game.
“I was kind of hoping to be drafted as a position player but I wasn’t going to complain. I just wanted to get drafted and get an opportunity.”
In 2014, Josh was assigned to the White Sox rookie league team in Arizona. He appeared in 15-games, posting a 1-2 record with 3-saves and a 3.80 ERA. What was most impressive was his command, allowing 5-walks and striking out 27 in 21.1-innings pitched.
It was a great start to his professional career, but an elbow injury required Tommy John Surgery, and the right-hander was forced to sit out the entire 2015 season. He came back in 2016, but appeared in just six games before being released.
“In 2016 was when I was coming back, and I only pitched something like five innings. I still wasn’t 100 percent, and maybe wasn’t completely ready to pitch at that point.”
The Journey Leads to Triumph
Looking for a fresh start, Josh Goossen-Brown signed with the Lincoln Saltdogs, but was traded to the Wichita Wingnuts before the 2017 American Association season began. The Wingnuts were looking to build a deep bullpen, and the right-hander looked to be a great addition. He proved to be that and more.
In 2017, Josh appeared in 34-games, posting a team leading 1.62 ERA. He allowed 29 hits and 16 walks in 44.1-innings pitched, while striking out 36. As the season went along, his manager found that Goossen-Brown was one of the more reliable guys out of the bullpen, a pitcher he could depend upon no matter the situation.
“Josh has pitched really well for us,” Rose, Jr. explained in August. “He came here looking to add some confidence, to know that he could light it up again, and he really pitched well. He gives us three, four guys who can get outs, no matter what the situation is. He can get a big out to end an inning, throw two, three innings. He just wants to compete.”
The Wingnuts reliever has become more vital to the bullpen with each outing. He has also gained more confidence knowing his arm is sound.
“At the beginning of the season it was just about comfortable again, and so it was just about trusting it again, because I really hadn’t let it all go without rest or in back-to-back days. It was really more of a mental thing than a physical thing. I’m at the point now where I don’t even think about it now. This is the first time that I’ve got to play a full season of baseball in like two years and it feels good. I’m just happy to play baseball again.”
Learning from the Past Challenges
This season has not only been validation that Josh Goossen-Brown deserves to be in professional baseball, but has also been an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. His struggles last season could have derailed a lot of player’s dreams, but Josh has not allowed it to affect him any longer.
“You try to forget about those moments and just remember the good things that can happen. I like working hard when things go well, working hard when things aren’t going well, and that kind of keeps me on track. You just have to have a short memory in baseball.”
Wiping away past performances is not very easy in a sport like baseball where there is a lot of time to think. He is grateful for the teammates that he has, that they have been able to help him through the challenging times this season, and keep him focused. This is especially true of the team’s catchers, Martin Medina and Zac Fisher.
“They really help to keep my mind off the negative things and focus on getting the job done. Both came from the White Sox organization as well, and really know how to call a game and give our staff a lot of confidence that we can throw anything and they will block it.”
Trusting He Can Complete the Journey
There is a lot for Josh Goossen-Brown to feel confident about these days. He has the DNA that may lead him to the Major Leagues one day, but he also has great confidence in his abilities, something his parents helped to instill in the Wingnuts reliever.
“My parents have always been there behind me supporting me. They have never let me get too down or dwell on things. Just always been there for me and were always there to get me whatever I needed so that I could pursue my dream. They gave me the opportunity to pursue my dream.”
Josh Goossen-Brown is pursuing his dream. He is also helping the Wichita Wingnuts pursue their dream of being American Association Champions. It may not take a Herculean effort to defeat the Winnipeg Goldeys, but it will take great efforts from every member of the club to earn the franchise its second championship. Josh is primed for his opportunity to help make that dream a reality. No doubt, at some point in this series, the right-hander will get his opportunity to be the hero. Now that would be epic.
Images by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier
Member of the IBWAA