Cedar Rapids Kernels middle infielder Niko Goodrum was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the second round of the 2010 First Year Player Draft and spent the past two years playing for the Twins short season rookie league team in Elizabethton.
The 21 year old switch-hitter from Georgia got off to a good start with the Kernels, most often batting second in Manager Jake Mauer’s batting order, behind lead off hitter Byron Buxton. He was named to the Midwest League’s Western Division All-Star team.
On June 2, Goodrum collided with Kane County catcher Willson Contreras and came away with a concussion that sidelined him on the team’s Disabled List right up until the final day of the first half of the Midwest League season on June 16. His activation that day allowed him to participate in the MWL All-Star Game on June 18.
A few days ago, Goodrum talked about his season, so far, his injury and a number of other topics.
Jim Crikket: You’ve now played in about the same number of games you played in an entire year of rookie league ball. Have you been able to tell a difference in the full season of a Midwest League season, compared to the short season rookie leagues?
Niko Goodrum: You’ve got more games and if you’re in a slump, there’s no way to stretch it out (in short season). So that’s better. Body wise, there’s more on your body in a full season, but I don’t really feel a big difference between the rookie ball and the full season. They say it’s a big jump, but my body’s holding up well.
JC: You got of to a pretty good start to this season and then you had the issue over in Kane County. Exactly what happened there?
Goodrum: I was on first base and stole second base. Jorge Polanco was up and hit a line drive to left field. Jake (Manager Jake Mauer) rounded me around third base so I’m headed home. But then the catcher was up the line so it was either just stop or, if I try to slide, he’d probably end up dogging me or something. My first reaction was try to run him over. He kind of punched me in my chin. I don’t remember contact at all. I didn’t feel anything. I was down. I woke up and I was just strapped on to a cart.
JC: How long after that did it take before you felt like you could be playing?
Goodrum: I had headaches for probably three days after I had the concussion. But after that, when I started back to activities, I felt like “I’m ready to play,” but it was just a long process they had to do with concussions. Sending paperwork up to Minnesota and MLB so they can clear it, so it was a long process but I felt like I could play after the headaches went away. I felt ready to go.
JC: I recall you were hoping to get cleared a day or two earlier than it actually happened.
Goodrum: They told me I was going to be cleared on Saturday so we were just waiting for Saturday to come and then they told me they didn’t hear anything back from them. Then once the game finally started, that’s when they ended up telling them I’m cleared to play. So I ended up getting cleared for Sunday.
JC: The team struggled a bit while you were out of the line up. That had to be kind of tough to sit and watch while the lead in the standings dropped from five games, four games and so on. And there was nothing you could do about it.
Goodrum: Yeah, it was. It was tough watching and knowing I can’t do anything to help them. Not even a chance I could get in to maybe play defense or pinch hit or run or something. There was nothing. So it was tough watching and seeing my team go down like that.
JC: Tell me about the All-Star Game experience. That must have been a good time.
Goodrum: It was fun. Being around guys from other teams. The atmosphere. The home run derby was fun, watching that. Playing in front of ten thousand people was fun. Just the atmosphere. It was just great, a great time, I had a good time, yeah.
JC: With Byron Buxton’s promotion, your role has changed perhaps a little bit. You’ve had some opportunities to bat lead off. Do you take a different approach when you lead off or do you just try to get on base?
Goodrum: Yeah, just get on base. That’s all I’m worried about is trying to get on base.
JC: I know your father was in Cedar Rapids early in April. Has your family been back up to see you play? How do they follow how you’re doing with the Kernels?
Goodrum: Most of my family does it online, they look at the game play-by-play online. All my family came up to the All-Star Game to see me play.
My dad hasn’t been back up yet, but my mom and my brother and my girlfriend, they came up to CR to see me play. They’ve been up here a couple times.
JC: Tell me about your hobbies and interests off the field. What do you like to do away from the ballpark?
Goodrum: Sometimes I play video games, go to movies. Chill. I’m pretty much at Tyler Grimes’ house, me and JD (Williams) are pretty much over there hanging out. But we don’t really do too much.
JC: You’ve been in Cedar Rapids for over three months now. What’s been the best part of the Cedar Rapids experience so far?
Goodrum: New city, it’s always fun playing in front of new fans. It’s a great field, great stadium. A great coaching staff, so it’s always good.Overall, it’s a big jump from Elizabethton, city-wise, so all around, it’s good.
JC: Have you set any specific personal or team goals for the rest of the year?
Goodrum: Try to win a championship.