SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Troughout the 1970s and 80s, Hall of Fame pitcher Goose Gossage was known for two things: sitting down batters and doing it with one heck of a horseshoe on his face.
“I still can’t even comprehend the things that I got to do as a big leaguer and it still hasn’t registered yet,” Gossage said.
On Tuesday, however, he put that magnificent mustache to a different task: teaching America’s passtime to kids here in Springfield.
“What else can you fail at seven out of ten times and be a star?” Gossage said. “It’s a very difficult game, and how you deal with that failure will directly correlate with how much success you have in the game and in life itself.”
At Hammons field, Gossage took time to hold a youth clinic, hand out some tools of the trade and even play a little catch with the kids in the outfield.
“These kids are-don’t have everything in life, material things,” Gossage said. “You can’t believe what a baseball glove and a baseball will mean.”
It is all part of Grassroots Baseball’s Route 66 Tour, a group with the mission to give all children the opportunity, equipment and passion to play the game.
“It’s an introduction to even the most basics,” Grassroots Baseball Co-Founder and Baseball Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson said. “To have a guy like Goose Gossage as your national spokesman to say, ‘Look, I was once your size. Well maybe not your size (laughs) but I was once your age and if I can do it you can do it.'”
For the kids, meanwhile, it’s also an opportunity to learn from one of the best.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Grassroots Baseball Co-Founder and Sony Artisan photographer Jean Fruth said. “If I was handing them a glove, okay. They got a glove from the photographer. But when Goose Gossage hands you your first baseball glove and maybe plays catch with you it’s a game changer. All puns intended.”
Thanks to missions like Grassroots Baseball, the next Goose might just come from right here in Springfield.