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Shortened career no regret to Goffena

Shortened career no regret to Goffena

TORONTO -- Tom Goffena was so excited to be selected by a Major League team in 1977 that some of his Draft day events are a blur to him. He remembers the phone call from the Blue Jays, but he doesn't recall if it was Bob Engle, the scout who courted Goffena, or Bobby Mattick, Toronto's scouting director and future manager.

"I don't even have any idea what I signed for," Goffena said with a laugh. "I'd have to ask my wife or my mother. I think it was between $35,000 or $50,000. It's nothing like it is nowadays."

The former shortstop from Sidney High School in Sidney, Ohio, holds a unique place in Blue Jays history as the team's first selection in its inaugural June Amateur Draft.

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Unlike today, when new franchises get the first or second overall selections in the draft, the Jays and their expansion cousins in Seattle received the final two picks of 1977's first round. Goffena was taken by Toronto with the 25th pick, which didn't come as a big surprise.

"I knew [the Jays] were interested," Goffena said. "But they were the 25th pick at the time, and they didn't think I'd be around.

"Eight million kids every year want to do this, but I was one of the ones lucky enough to get the chance."

Injuries kept Goffena from making an impact in the Major Leagues. After a year with the Utica franchise in the New York-Penn League, he was lifting weights in an attempt to add more muscle to his wiry 6-foot, 155-pound frame. Instead, he ended up injuring his back -- an injury that he felt took a major toll on his career.

"I could run and had a strong arm and didn't strike out very often," Goffena recalled. "When I hurt my back, I lost a half-second in my [40-yard-dash] time, and speed was a big part of my game."

Surgery couldn't fix the problem, and the shortstop had to call it a career after only three professional seasons. Goffena went home to Sidney and, after a short stint as a golf pro, he took a position with the engineer's office in Shelby County, Ohio. He has remained with the county for the last 26 years and is currently serving as highway superintendent.

In addition to his work, Goffena has spent his post-baseball life raising a family. He has a 25-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old grandson, and he has been married to his wife for 26 years. Goffena's first year of marriage was also the final year of his baseball career, and his wife traveled with him to away games.

"I got a lot of homemade meals on the road, which is hard to come by," Goffena joked.

Goffena also has family connections that extend to the diamond. His younger brother, David, who was an outfielder-turned-pitcher, was selected by the Blue Jays in the 25th round of the 1980 Draft. Tom Goffena's nephews, Thomas and Derik, played college baseball for Kent State and Georgia Tech, respectively. Derik Goffena now coaches a high school team in North Carolina.

Though his stint in the pros was shorter than he and the Blue Jays expected, Goffena has no regrets.

"We had a lot of fun back then. I have no complaints -- none whatsoever," Goffena said. "The Toronto Blue Jays were a good organization and I enjoyed playing for them."

Goffena has continued to follow his former team over the years. He paid particular interest to the careers of two of his former Minor League roommates -- Blue Jays stars Jesse Barfield and Jim Clancy.

The last Major League game Goffena attended was an Astros-Reds game. After its conclusion, he took his nephews into the Houston clubhouse to meet Clancy, who was pitching for the Astros at the time.

"We had a really good time catching up," Goffena recalls.

It makes Goffena happy to be forever linked with the Blue Jays as their first-ever draft pick.

"Your chest sticks out a little further," he said. "We're not a real big town here in Sidney, so just to be drafted by a Major League club really makes you feel proud."

Mark Polishuk is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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