In order to grow, sometimes you just have to leave the nest.
Brian Goodwin was born in North Carolina, grew up and attended high school in Rocky Mount, and in 2010, began his freshman season at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, about 90 minutes from his hometown.
He was declared ineligible for the 2011 season by the university, though, so he transferred to Miami Dade Community College, leaving home for the first time and ensuring he would be eligible for the Draft a year early.
It's not always easy to take that step, but Goodwin enjoyed a fine year with Miami Dade, batting .382 in 47 games and wound up being selected 34th overall by in the 2011 Draft by Washington, a club that's just a four-hour drive from home.
In his first professional year this season, he hit .324/.438/.542 in 58 games with Class A Hagerstown and earned an aggressive promotion to Double-A Harrisburg. The Nationals' third-ranked prospect -- and MLB.com's No. 67 overall -- finished the year with a .280/.384/.469 line overall in 100 games. He recently talked to MiLB.com about leaving home, the contrasts between pitchers at different levels and how he views his first season in the Washington farm system.
MiLB.com: The process of transferring from UNC where you grew up to Miami Dade and becoming eligible for the Draft early, was that ultimately a positive one for you?
Goodwin: A lot of people ask me that, and I feel like it [was]. Going through it, I was just coming out of high school really. It was my first year on my own, and I kind of took some stuff for granted. Going through that process made me have to mature a little bit, bear down and take it seriously. [Being declared ineligible and having to transfer] was a wake-up call, like a blessing in disguise.
MiLB.com: Was there any aspect of it all that was difficult for you?
Goodwin: No, it wasn't difficult. As soon as I found out, I just wanted to get away. I had a guy from North Carolina that was down there coaching, Danny Price -- he and my mom went to the same high school. He called me up and I went down there. I already had people I knew, so I loved it. Miami's obviously not a bad place to be.
There's a lot of good talent in Florida JuCo. You're still playing good competition, the hardest part was off the field.
MiLB.com: Were you pretty happy when you were drafted by Washington, a club pretty close to where you grew up?
Goodwin: Oh, yeah. I had never been to the stadium actually, but that was great. They're on the East Coast, all their Minor League teams are on the East Coast, all my family is pretty much on the East coast, so that made it really good. They've got their teams in Maryland, Pennsylvania, D.C. -- everything is right there. It's so close, you get in the car and drive for a few hours and you're there.
MiLB.com: After they picked you, was that the first time you'd ever gone to Washington?
Goodwin: Yeah, that was my first time in D.C. We were out there for a day, got there early and they showed us all around. We had our own drivers, it was dope.
MiLB.com: What was the challenge like, going from Atlantic Coast Conference competition to the competition you faced at Miami Dade then to the Sally League?
Goodwin: It kind of just speeds up [as you progress], just a little bit faster. You have to kind of know what's going on, have to have an idea of what may happen before it happens. It just kind of speeds up your thought process. The pitching, the talent is there. Some of the guys I played in JuCo like Matt Skole, like Cory Spangenberg -- he was the 10th pick -- so you're still playing some of the same competition whether its ACC ball or JuCo ball or A-ball.
MiLB.com: Were you surprised, entering pro ball for the first time, to have the kind of immediate success you had?
Goodwin: I don't know if it surprised me. I mean I always want to go out and perform, that's what you train and practice and play the game for. There was just a situation where I just walked in and I had gotten to know my coaches in Spring Training and I kind of had a feel for who I may be with. I didn't go in thinking I wasn't going to be ready for competition. The success, I would say that comes from that work. It gives you confidence. I'm out doing this on the tee, I'm in the cage before the game, I'm out taking flies in the outfield, so you know you can do it, you just transfer it to the game. That kind of glorifies the practice side.
MiLB.com: When you were promoted, who were the first people you told?
Goodwin: My mother, of course. [Laughs] If she wasn't first, we would've had problems. Some of my boys, I called them on the way there. Everybody that was in my recent call log, they probably got a call that day.
MiLB.com: What was most difficult about adapting to the Double-A level, which a lot of people say is the toughest jump to make?
Goodwin: I told my hitting coach from Hagerstown [Mark Harris] ... this was the second night I was there, I was like, "Man, nothing up here is straight." All the pitchers have movement on everything. I think I was like 0-for-my-first-11. [Editor's Note: He started 1-for-19.] I told him, "I haven't seen just a straight fastball since I've been here." So immediately you're like, "Okay, it's a bit different pitching, it's a bit tough." They can throw a lot of different things in different counts. In [Class A], they're kind of working on pitches, like location. I feel like in Double-A, they've gotten the command part and now they're trying to master it. Everybody's got a good changeup, good offspeed stuff and nobody's fastball is straight. One of the first things I noticed -- the movement.
MiLB.com: You planning on spending some time back down in North Carolina during the offseason?
Goodwin: I'm there right now -- hanging out with my parents, my people, eating Thanksgiving dinners. I'm just working out, lifting. I've got a boy that plays for the Oakland A's -- Xavier Macklin -- he's from Rocky Mount too, so we work out together.
MiLB.com: What's the best part about being home for you? It's the barbecue, isn't it?
Goodwin: [Laughs] It is, it's the home-cooked meals. You miss it so much, and you don't realize until you get back. That's got to be the best part.
MiLB.com: When you think about going into next season, is there any particular thing you want to see from yourself?
Goodwin: I feel like you just play your heart out and let the results take care of themselves. I feel like that's been working 'til now -- might as well stick with that.
MiLB.com: The past few years, with the difference challenges you've faced, how do you think they've ultimately shaped you and prepared you for further success?
Goodwin: I think it just helped me kind of pay attention to what's more important, get focused on what I need to be doing and not taking stuff for granted. Try to get stronger -- mentally, physically -- I think that's it, just made me bear down.