Thursday, September 25, 2008

Former Oriole Now "Playing for Peanuts"

Joba Chamberlain imitator invites reminisence of a former flash in the pan for the Birds

by Matthew Taylor

The recent story that an ordinary Joe (er, Ryan) in New York had been posing as Joba Chamberlain to score drinks, food, and women served as a reminder that one should bring a healthy level of cynicism to celebrity sightings, especially when they involve a self-proclaimed celebrity. However, there is another side to that equation, as I learned years ago in Baltimore.

In the early-to-mid '90s, while visiting one of the many nightlife incarnations of the Hammerjacks-turned-Baltimore Ravens parking lot, I met a guy who eagerly informed me that he was going to be the next great center fielder for the Orioles. Yes, he would be the one to replace Mike Devereaux, he proclaimed confidently .

My first thought was to remind this Devo-in-waiting of the unwritten guy code about not chatting up strangers in the bathroom. Then I thought of my appreciation for Mike Devereaux and how I didn't want to see him replaced in center field any time soon.

Mike Devereaux was the first guy I ever saw make an honest-to-goodness over-the-wall catch to steal a home run from the opponent. It was a marvel of a defensive gem featuring Devo, his nonglove hand notched firmly atop the Memorial Stadium wall, reaching at full extension and then some
- at least to this teenager's mind's eye - to make an almost superhuman play. The snapshot of his body alone (full extension, one arm thrust skyward) would be enough to qualify him for the Justice League. Over time, the style of catch has gone from novelty to art form (Kenny Lofton, circa the Cleveland Indian years was one of the true masters of the genre) to "Web Gems" retread.

All of my ruminations ultimately translated into little more than a cynical grunt in response to the boasting.

Perhaps sensing my doubt, the presumed player became more insistent and no less certain of himself. Ultimately, he concluded the discussion by stating simply, "You'll see." And I did.

Once Spring Training rolled around the following season I did a double-take. Staring back at
me - first from the television during a Spring Training game, later from the front page of The Sun - was the same guy I spoke with months earlier. I had met Curtis Goodwin but was too stubborn to believe it.

Extra Innings: Goodwin was an exciting flash in the pan for the Birds, and his story has gotten no less interesting over time. He played for the South Georgia Peanuts last year during the team's inaugural season, which is documented in the upcoming reality show/documentary/DVD "Playing for Peanuts." Click this link for his player page.

Curtis Goodwin's Playing Career in a Nutshell (with apologies for the bad pun)*

Baltimore Orioles (1995)
Cincinnati Reds (1996-1997)
Colorado Rockies (1998)
Chicago Cubs (1999)
Toronto Blue Jays (1999)

Berkshire Black Bears (Northern League)

Sonoma City (Western League)

Newark Bears (Independent)

South Georgia Peanuts (South Coast League)

*Not necessarily a comprehensive list at the minor league level

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