University of Maine designated hitter Connor Goodman steps up to the plate during a baseball game in the 2023 season. Credit: Courtesy of UMaine Athletics

University of Maine senior designated hitter Connor Goodman suffered a devastating loss when he was 9 years old.

His father, Glenn, died unexpectedly from a heart aneurysm.

Afterward, the Florida native sought a way to have something positive evolve from such a tragic event.

“My mom [Debbie], who is also my best friend, and I wanted to try to take that tragedy and turn it into triumph,” Goodman said.

Goodman had read that Logan Morrison, first baseman for what was then the Florida Marlins, had lost his father at an early age. He and his mother met with Morrison and his agent at an event that celebrated the team’s new LoanDepot Park in Miami and its change to the Miami Marlins, and they pitched an idea to help other children who have lost a parent.

The Goodmans went on to form a partnership with Morrison and the Miami Marlins Foundation and create Miami Marlins MVPs, a program that allows children who have lost a parent to have a day at the ballpark where they can take in a game and meet the players.

“[Morrison] loved the idea. He showed me around, he took me under his wing and was a real mentor to me,” Goodman said.

Dozens of families have been able to take advantage of the program over the years and it is still going strong.

Goodman is having a terrific season as the Black Bears’ cleanup hitter, and enters this weekend’s America East home series against the University of Maryland Baltimore County hitting .356 with two homers and 42 runs batted in. He is third on the team in batting average and second in RBIs. But it’s his off-the-field accomplishments that make Goodman stand out.

In addition to the Miami Marlins MVPs program, when Goodman was a freshman in high school he again collaborated with the Marlins, this time to provide underprivileged children with baseball equipment. It is called Connor’s Champions: Choose Gloves, Not Drugs.

“The Miami Marlins have been great to me. They have been so supportive,” Goodman said.

“Baseball is what got me through my tough times in life. And I wanted to keep kids off the streets and show them the game that I love.”

UMaine baseball coach Nick Derba called Goodman a person with high character.

“He’s everything you could ask for in a student-athlete. He’s a good student, a good baseball player, a good teammate,” Derba said. “His off-the-field stuff, you can’t beat that.”

Goodman’s been clutch this season, with 22 of his 42 RBIs coming on two-out hits.

And he’s struck out just 10 times over 149 at-bats.

“It’s his plate discipline. He doesn’t chase bad pitches,” said UMaine sophomore first baseman Jeremiah Jenkins. “He is one of the most polished hitters on the team, if not the most polished hitter.”

Goodman is tied for 15th in the country in sacrifice flies with six.

Derba said UMaine recruited Goodman not only because he was a good baseball player, but he was someone who could help change the culture of the baseball team with his off-the-field attributes.

“He’s a good baseball player but there was that component where this kid was walking in here with real intentions of utilizing what he does in a good way. We needed that. And he has done it. He has been in the middle of this culture change we’ve had and have been talking about the past few years,” Derba said.

On Goodman’s first recruitment visit to UMaine, it was 4 below zero and snowing.

“But Coach Derba sold me on this place, he sold me on the culture, he sold me on himself and what I could do here,” Goodman said.

He added that he has benefited from having a potent lineup around him, including Jake Rainess in the leadoff spot, Quinn McDaniel hitting second and Jenkins in the three spot.

“I’ve been coming up with guys on base pretty much the whole year,” said Goodman. “So I just try to put good swings on balls.”

The Black Bears are 23-15 overall and 13-2 in conference play. They have already clinched a berth to the six-team, double-elimination tournament and are close to sewing up a top-two finish, which would earn them a first-round bye.

Goodman said it is nice having such a good regular season but it doesn’t mean anything if they won’t win the conference tournament.

UMaine was the top seed on its own field last season but was ousted in two games. It hasn’t won the conference tournament since 2011.

“Our goal is to win the championship,” said Goodman, a career .314 hitter who has 14 RBIs in his last 10 games. He will return for a fifth year next season.

UMaine and UMBC will play at 4 p.m. on Friday, 1 p.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday.