When she needs a moment during a game or at practice, Lansdowne pitcher Jordyn Goodman finds solace by peeking under her wristband and seeing her late father smiling back at her.
If she feels as if she’s getting overwhelmed on the mound, she can almost his hear his voice through the picture tucked against her arm, the National Security Agency employee and Arbutus fire department volunteer who taught her how to hit and throw, along with her sister, Hannah, whom she’ll be joining next season on the softball team at Division II Coker in Hartsville, S.C.
“I feel like I can hear his advice all the time,” said Jordyn, now a senior for the No. 14 Vikings. “He had certain sayings that he would say over and over again. You would probably get sick of hearing it all the time. I still hear them like he’s still there.”
Ken Goodman died Jan. 18 at age 49 after a quiet battle with cancer. A Lansdowne graduate himself, Goodman coached the Vikings’ varsity softball team for three seasons. His fourth was supposed to be his sweetest, with the dream of ending Jordyn’s high school career with a state championship in College Park.
“First came his girls. Second game softball,” said Jamie Izdebski, the Vikings’ former longtime softball coach who takes over as the interim. “That was Ken.”
Lansdowne’s first official game of the season is Friday at home against Loch Raven. The team has a banner with Ken’s name written on it, along with Kayla Linton, a 17-year-old senior lacrosse player at Lansdowne who died suddenly Jan. 28, 2017, after she went into cardiac arrest while battling the flu. Written alongside their names is “Valhalla,” the celebrated great hall for the dead in Norse mythology.
In the first inning Friday, Lansdowne will leave the third base coaching box vacant. Etched inside will be the initials KG. Jordyn said she might call timeout and take a moment to stand near third base.
“I know he’ll be over there,” she said.
Said Izdebski: “He’ll be there. That’s going to be his spot.”
Izdebski coached Lansdowne for 15 seasons before serving as an assistant under Ken. After playing in high school at North Harford and in college at Maryland, she said Ken gave her a better understanding of the “newer softball.”
“He was really good with the strategy,” Izdebski said. “He was great with the X’s and O’s. One of the real things I learned from him was hitting. He knew a lot of little things that he would tell the girls about hitting because he would attend conferences and stuff like that.
“He would bring a lot of new knowledge to not just the girls, but me also.”
Izdebski said she and Ken were “kind of opposites,” but complemented each other well. They could calm each other down. They also shared the same taste in music, much to their players’ dismay.
“They would always play their new music,” Izdebski said, “and every once in a while he would throw in one of our ’80s hair bands and we would just sit there and laugh because the girls would look at us like, ‘Oh, my god, what were you all listening to?’ ”
When Ken died, Izdebski, a physical education teacher at the school, was the one to drive Jordyn to the hospital. Jordyn insisted she be the one to tell the team about her father’s passing.
“I really wanted it to be me to tell them,” Jordyn said. “The first thing I asked was our coach now [Izdebski], ‘Will you coach? It can’t be anybody else but you.’ She said, ‘Of course. I’m ready. We’re ready to do this.’ ”
Izdebski was dealing with her own grief, but she knew she had to remain strong for her team. Jordyn was counting on her, after all.
“I told her, ‘I wish I could take the pain away,’ ” Izdebski recalled. “ ‘I’ll take it. I can deal with this better than you can. You’re too young. But I can’t, and it’s going to [stink], but I promise you, we’ll get through it.’ ”
That’s why the team’s motto for this season is “Tomorrow is another day.”
“Obviously, I was supposed to do all four years with my dad,” Jordyn said. “But her stepping up and taking the team to where it is now, it’s taken some weight off of me knowing that it’s going to be in good hands.”
When her father died, Hannah was at Coker, preparing for her sophomore season after hitting .277 as a freshman. Her coach, Travis McCall, took her to the airport to fly back home for the viewing. After she left, he sent a text to Hannah telling her that the Coker family would be with her. She thought he meant in spirit, a touching gesture. She was later stunned to see the entire softball team at the funeral home — the second softball team at the viewing after the Vikings arrived in their uniforms.
“I didn’t think they were going to come,” Hannah said of her Coker teammates. “They got class or whatever. It’s not a trip to an away game or anything. But they came and it was really special for them to care that much about not even just me, but my family.
“It’s something you never forget.”
The team also surprised Hannah with “Goodman Strong” wristbands this season to honor her father, matching the “KG Strong” wristbands the Vikings will wear. Like Jordyn, Hannah also takes a piece of father with her onto the field, writing the initials KG on her glove.
“We can feel him every day at practice, every game,” Jordyn said. “I definitely know that this group of girls [at Lansdowne], we’re going to be forever bonded by this happening. It’s special.”
Though the sisters now live about a seven-hour drive apart, they message and FaceTime each other, along with their mom, more than they ever had (“You never know anymore,” Hannah said). Hannah has even surprised them with an unexpected visit from Coker.
The plan wasn’t always to play together in college, but it became an unexpected possibility when Jordyn was offered a scholarship — on one of Hannah’s unofficial visits to Coker.
“We’ve been playing together for so long, it kind of just fit,” Hannah said. “The family atmosphere the whole campus has, the team has, just the way we interact with each other and how we love each other, it just fit.”
In many ways, Hannah and Jordyn wouldn’t be playing at Coker were it not for their father. It wasn’t just how he taught them to play, but the way he did so.
“Some dads, you know when they coach, it’s ‘Daddy ball’ and it’s about their daughter, but he was never like that,” Hannah said. “He was harder on me than he was everyone else, just because he knew. He wasn’t going to treat me different from everybody else just because I was his daughter.”
Said Jordyn: “I became a lot more passionate about softball as the years went on, and he was a part of that. He was a part of my college decision, and making him proud about that. He might not have been my coach my whole life, but he had an impact in all of it.”
Before the Goodman sisters can start thinking about their future together, there’s still the matter of Jordyn’s final season at Lansdowne.
“Her goal is to win a state championship,” Izdebski said. I’ll tell you that.”
Lansdowne made it to the Class 3A North Region final last year, falling to C. Milton Wright, 2-1. The Vikings haven’t advanced to the state semifinals during Jordyn’s career, but they have the talent to make it this season, especially if she can assert herself as one of the area’s best pitchers.
“When it comes time for my last game in playoffs,” Jordyn said, “however far we get through, just to be satisfied and know that I literally put everything I had into softball while I was wearing a Lansdowne uniform … that would be enough for me.”
And if they make it to College Park?
“I’ll be the first one there,” Hannah said. “No doubt.”
The third base coach will be already waiting.