‘Doc’ Gooden Visits Students At FMS -Sampson G Smith Campus

DOCTOR K SPEAKS – “Doc” Gooden speaks to an SGS students while Natasha Rodgers, founder of the organization that brought him to the school, looks on.

There was a special Doctor in the house at one of the township Middle School campuses November 29.

The Doc in this case was Dwight “Doc” Gooden, the Cy Young Award-winning, three-time World Series champion, Rookie of the Year and four-time All Star.

Gooden, sporting sweats emblazoned with his Mets uniform number – he also played locally with the Yankees – stopped in at Franklin Middle School – Sampson G. Smith campus for a pep talk to a group of Sampson students, mainly student athletes.

Gooden appeared at the school under the auspices of the Simuel Whitfield Simmons Organization, a township based organization dedicated to mentoring youth and helping families in need get necessities such as clothing and food.

Gooden came with a message – a message from the mess, as he calls it – wrapped in a recounting of his storied career and his personal problems revolving around drug addiction.

The former All-Star told the students that if they wanted to excel in their chosen sport at higher levels, they would have to “eat, sleep and live” that sport.

He also said that they should play a number of sports and then decide which one they wanted to focus on. He pointed out that basketball superstar Michael Jordan’s favorite sport was baseball, but he achieved his fame on the boards.

Gooden also touched on substance abuse and the stigma attached to it that keeps many from reaching out for help. he said the students should not be afraid to find someone to talk to if they have a problem.

The students should “find a person they trust, and get the help they need,” if they have a problem, Gooden said.

“It’s an opportunity for me to take the mistakes I made and help these kids,” Gooden said. “I try to let them know from my own experience that there’s a better way to make better decisions.”

“Everything was there, I made some bad choices with alcohol and drugs, then the ego got in the way and I didn’t get the help I needed,” he said.

Gooden said he got past his ego, got the help he needed and he has been drug-free for four years.

SGS principal Rebekah Solomon said Gooden’s visit was a great opportunity for the school’s student athletes.

“Using sports to change your life has always been something meaningful to me,” she said. “I want kids to use sports as a catalyst to get to college, hopefully for free, and to accomplish their life goals.”

Solomon said that because the students are so young, they may not know who Dwight Gooden is.

“So I hope they get really excited,” she said. “I know their parents are really excited and the staff is really excited.”

Franklin Township schools Athletic Director Ken Margolin – who said he’s a diehard Mets fan – said Gooden’s “story transcends time.”

“I think once he explains his accolades and what he achieved – two World Series with the Yankees, one with the Mets, Rookie of the Year – then I think they’ll have an understanding of the pinnacle of success he was at and his story,” Margolin said. “And his story is a very important story to be told.”

“Even though they might not know the name, I’m excited to hear the story and how students respond to the story,” he said.

Natasha Rodgers, a township resident and founder of the Simuel Whitfield Simmons Organization – named after her grandfather – said it was important for her to bring Gooden into the township.

“I wanted him to come back and speak to our children,” she said. “As he went around to other districts, Franklin was important to me because I wanted him to give back to the children that I know would benefit from his story.”

“I told him after he finished, he did such a great job,” she said. “As soon as he started talking about his upbringing and what happened to him, all the students were quiet and were attentive and listening to his journey, and that’s what was important to me.”

The Franklin Reporter & Advocate spent a few minutes with Gooden and others after the presentation:

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