Ethan Goforth grew up in Blacksburg, Virginia.
He spent four years at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee.
So, when he was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 25th round of June’s Major League Baseball Amateur Draft and assigned to the team’s Appalachian League affiliate in Bristol it meant the beginning of his professional career would be even more meaningful.
“Bristol was the perfect storm,” Goforth said. “I’m an hour and a half from both home and Carson-Newman, so I’ve had my parents, grandparents, friends, girlfriend, college and high school coaches – you name it and they’ve been able to see me play and that’s special to me because those people put time into me getting to where I am today.”
Goforth has appeared in 18 games for the Bristol Pirates as the backup to starting catcher Eli Wilson and is hitting .217 with two home runs and six RBIs.
He began the season mired in an 0-for-18 slump at the plate, but wasn’t doomed by that slow start.
“The best part has been just learning; learning about the differences in the game from the college level and now to the pros and learning how to compete at this level,” Goforth said. “The friendships and learning from teammates has also been really cool to experience … I’ve learned how important a short memory is. I knew it was important in the past, but this year it has really shown me that I need to live that.”
Goforth has developed a good rapport with Bristol’s stable of pitchers.
“Ethan’s a really good catcher,” said BriBucs hurler Tahnaj Thomas. “He really knows what he’s doing and he has a great relationship with his pitching staff. What really impresses me is that he’s really dedicated and really cares about his pitching staff and helping them be better.”
His catching skills were his calling card at Carson-Newman.
“For the last two years he literally caught every game for us,” said C-N coach Tom Griffin. “His durability and his athleticism and fitness level were good enough to catch literally every game for two years. In a time where we try to give catchers rest and keep them fresh, that was never an issue with him.”
He comes by that conditioning honestly.
His father, Mike, attended Bluefield High School in West Virginia and has been an athletic trainer at Virginia Tech since 1998.
“I went to just about everything I could at Virginia Tech as a kid,” Ethan Goforth said. “I was lucky enough to be the bat boy for the baseball team on occasion. I would shag balls for the punters and kickers during football practice and shoot basketball in the back gyms until they kicked me out. In football, I idolized Danny Coale and Tyrod Taylor and baseball it would have to be Andrew Rash, Joe Mantiply and Mike McMenamin as guys I looked up to. I love that place.”
Goforth was a three-sport standout for the Blacksburg High School Bruins, excelling in baseball, football and wrestling. He was an all-state performer on the mat as a senior in 2015.
“I started wrestling when I was six years old,” Goforth said. “Wrestling definitely taught me discipline and work ethic and it helped me a lot with my flexibility as well.”
With his shaved head, facial hair and menacing glare, Goforth is somebody you wouldn’t want to mess with if there was a bench-clearing brawl. He also plays with the intensity one would expect from a New River Valley tough guy.
“He just has a passion for competing,” Griffin said. “The coaches in our league always talked about the energy level he played with.”
Goforth had some familiarity with Bristol before he played his first game with the Pirates.
The Ed Cressel Classic at Virginia High’s Bearcat Den (where he beat Lebanon’s Austin Cox in the 170-pound finals in 2015) and the Brawl in the Hall at Viking Hall (where he was runner-up to Tennessee High’s Jon Taylor in the 132-pound weight class in 2013) were among the tournaments Goforth wrestled in as a high schooler.
He had played against the King University Tornado while at Carson-Newman.
Goforth was among the record crowd of 156,990 in attendance at Bristol Motor Speedway when the Tennessee Volunteers vanquished the Virginia Tech Hokies, 45-24, on Sept. 10, 2016 in college football’s “Battle at Bristol.”
Cabela’s at Exit 5 and Bass Pro Shops at Exit 74 had been among his scheduled stops when he was making the drive from Blacksburg to Jefferson City in returning to college.
Bristol has been his home this summer and there are eight more meaningful regular-season games remaining for the BriBucs.
The Pirates are in the thick of the Appalachian League playoff race entering tonight’s game with the Pulaski Yankees at DeVault Stadium. The city’s professional franchise is attempting to secure a postseason bid for the first time since 2002 and/or the first winning season since 2008.
“It’s exciting,” Goforth said. “We’ve heard about all of the potential first time in a long time things this team can do. But we are just focused on each day and making the most of it and the rest will take care of itself.”
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