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Mike Gosling goes out in style

May 18, 2010, 9:25 AM EDT

Mike Gosling.jpgThis is the first and probably the last time I’ll ever write about Mike Gosling on this blog, but I was in the crowd last night to see him pitch and I feel very grateful for having been there.

Unless you’re a hardcore Diamondbacks fan, you probably have no idea who Mike Gosling is. Short version: he’s a pitcher who came out of Stanford and was taken by Arizona in the second round of the 2001 draft. After a year of decent work in double A, Gosling seemingly met his match in the Pacific Coast League, putting up three straight years of ERAs in the fives, with increasingly poor peripherals.

The Diamondbacks waived him and the Reds picked him up, where it was more of the same.  Then the Blue Jays took him and turned him into a reliever for a season only to release him. Then a half season stop with the Twins organization and finally the Indians.  There were cups of coffee here and there, but he’s basically been a AAA soldier for several years.

Last night Gosling got the start for the Columbus Clippers.  I was at the game, and though Carlos Santana’s two-homer, five-RBI night was the big story, Gosling pitched well, shutting out a very good Durham Bulls team over six and a third innings. He left to the polite but muted applause of the crowd, most of whom were at Huntington Park for the dime-a-dog night promotion, not the final bow of Mike Gosling’s non-storied career.

And it was the final bow:  Mike Gosling announced after the game that he was retiring back home to San Diego in order to spend more time with his wife, Kim, and his 4-month-old son, Max.  He had actually made his decision before the game, but hadn’t told anyone outside of team management. Maybe that was to preserve the integrity of the game. Maybe that was in case he changed his mind (though on a cold and wet Ohio night, I’m sure the prospect of heading back to the warm embrace of his family in the sunny climes of San Diego rendered a change of heart impossible). But no matter the reason, last night was it for him, and I’m glad I was there to see it.

Not because Mike Gosling was anything special as a pitcher, obviously. Indeed, as the game was happening I really didn’t give him much if any thought.  But knowing now that it was his last game, I’m struck with a certain joy and wonder about it all.

How many ballplayers leave the game on their own terms? Sure, maybe Gosling’s original terms were to leave the game following his 350th win and seventh World Series ring, but at some point over the past seven or eight years he likely readjusted to reality, accepting the fact that he was basically a double-A pitcher kicking around triple-A baseball and that the future held no further glory for him.  He turns 30 this fall, and he knows the score. Last night the score for him was zeros. However sad it is to walk away from something you’ve done since you were a kid, leaving like that rather than being released by one team and shunned by all the rest has to make the process a bit sweeter.

As does the reason for leaving.  As I write this, Mike Gosling is probably sitting in Port Columbus International airport waiting for a plane that will take him home to San Diego to see Kim and Max and to begin his new life.  How nice is it that he left his old one walking as tall as anyone could reasonably hope under the circumstances?  How nice is it that someone — in this case a Columbus Dispatch reporter — made a note of it so that we could know of this small but, in its own way, beautiful moment?

  1. Dan W - May 18, 2010 at 10:12 AM

    Stories like this is why we love the game.

  2. largebill - May 18, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    Good for him. Wish him the best in the real world.

  3. Grant - May 18, 2010 at 10:25 AM

    Stanford degree, second round bonus money, and eight or so years in pro ball? I’d say he’s done very well. And now he gets to be with his family. If we could all be so fortunate.

  4. Darryl - May 18, 2010 at 10:48 AM

    He’ll get a call soon. I hope he stays in the game. People with this kind of integrity are hard to find.

  5. Jake - May 18, 2010 at 10:55 AM

    I grew up close friends with Mike’s high school catcher and finally met his parents a few years ago at my friend’s wedding. Two of the greatest people I’ve ever had a chance to get to know over a single meal.
    It looks like they bred into him the confidence and intelligence to live life this way. And as Grant noted, we should all be so fortunate.
    I wish humans his family well.

  6. palehose67 - May 18, 2010 at 10:56 AM

    Nice story, Craig.

  7. YankeesfanLen - May 18, 2010 at 11:08 AM

    No matter how far in baseball he did or didn’t get, he went out on top.

  8. screaminzab - May 18, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    Really nice story, Craig. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Big Harold - May 18, 2010 at 3:19 PM

    As I was reading this I couldn’t stop visualizing my eight year old son’s little league game last night. He was excited because for the first time they let him play catcher. Gosling has likely been playing organized ball since the same age.
    Three things;
    1- Those Stanford guys must be smart because he knew when to call it quits and leave his best on the field, .. kind of like Mike Mussina.
    2- I can’t imagine the thought process and emotions to putting that much effort into something and then calling it quits, .. even after he apparently gave it everything he had.
    3- With his end, my son gets his first start as catcher and in a way the process begins again.
    Man, I love baseball.

  10. SouthofHeaven - May 18, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    Expand this into a full article & you’ll be up for a Pulitzer Craig.

  11. Charles Gates - May 18, 2010 at 8:08 PM

    Don’t you have to be a real journalist to win one of those?
    Actually, I’d love to read what you could do with a story like this.

  12. Rick - May 19, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    Craig,
    Thank you for this story.
    It is unfortunate that men like this retire and players like Milton Bradley keep getting new deals. Such is life.
    Thank you for honoring the game above all else Gosling, now go give them diapers hell.

  13. Frank - May 20, 2010 at 5:38 PM

    Terrific story; a small victory for anyone who played pro ball. In a game that chews you up and spits you out it’s nice to see somebody spit back. It’s refreshing to see a writer grasp the real story in an otherwise meaningless May ballgame. You’ve got it; don’t limit yourself to being a sportswriter.

  14. Madisonguy - May 23, 2010 at 11:53 AM

    You seem to have it just right. Mike was clearly a great kid and baseball player as a youngster in Madison and as they say – people don’t change. I guess I can stop googling him for a while thanks to your insightful article.

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