Fifty years ago this month I was umpiring home plate for the D-League baseball tournament finals at Custenborder Field won by Frantz Brothers. Eight years later the winning pitcher would become the first ever draft choice of the Toronto Blue Jays. That pitcher and future shortstop was ten years old and I was 15.
After the game the pitcher’s mother approached me to ask whether his pitches had movement in addition to obvious speed and control. “No movement,” I told Shyla Goffena, “but Tom does have a dandy arm.” Tom Goffena was especially dominating from the D-League pitching distance of just over 45 feet.
This was the first chapter as I began to follow the baseball legacy of the family of Pete and Shyla Goffena who lived with three sons on South Miami Avenue. That trio formed an ongoing baseball foundation at Sidney High through most of the 1970’s and into 1980.
The youngest, David, would also go on to pro baseball in the Toronto organization. The oldest, Mike, didn’t play professionally but fathered two sons who starred at Sidney, played major college baseball, and became high school coaches. The Goffena diamond heritage now spans four generations including Pete and Shyla’s great grandsons in youth baseball.
Beginning with the senior Goffenas, the family has been traditionally involved with many facets of local baseball both on and off the field, especially concerning Sidney High School. Mike, whom we lost in 2018, was always helping groom and improve the SHS field. Then son Thomas became Sidney’s head coach and dad went into overdrive. On the very day his son was hired, Mike headed to Campbell Road to spend five hours working on the Yellow Jackets diamond.
A new primarily baseball and softball indoor training facility is now nearing completion, strategically positioned on the SHS campus. The pet project of Athletic Director and former baseball coach Mitch Hoying, the Goffena Training Center will enhance those sports and lessen gymnasium crowding inside the school, positively impacting many sports and their practice schedules both in and out of season. When Mitch and I first discussed the concept we agreed that the name “Goffena” needed to be on the building.
The AD and I toured the impressive structure last Friday. Contractors will be gone by the end of the month when it will be time to install netting and finish the interior. A dedication ceremony will take place in late December when the entire Goffena clan can attend.
Hoying and his fund raisers are nearing the finish line as well but still need additional support for interest expense and high quality finishing touches to complete the privately funded facility. “Just like with our stadium, big donors make the plan feasible,” he offered, “but all donors influence the quality of the end product. We still have time to add names to our donor board with a minimum $100 gift.” Contributions are welcomed at the Community Foundation in Courtview Center which coordinates finances for the project, just as they did for the stadium and the later addition of synthetic turf.
The athletic component of the Sidney High School campus has received rave reviews from both inside and outside the school district. More of the same should continue as a need is met and a deserving family is honored with the Goffena Training Center.
Next Friday: No Thursday Night Lights in Sidney this football season.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. Ross has earned awards in Division II in the Ohio Associated Press Media Editor’s competition the last three years, including first place this year.