Walk into Paul Goldschmidt's Phoenix-area home and you won't find any of the numerous baseball awards he's won during his eight years in the big leagues.Ask to see one, though, and the D-backs first baseman will gladly let you. And while you look at it, he'll tell you about the
Walk into Paul Goldschmidt's Phoenix-area home and you won't find any of the numerous baseball awards he's won during his eight years in the big leagues.
Ask to see one, though, and the D-backs first baseman will gladly let you. And while you look at it, he'll tell you about the teammates from that year who helped him win it. You'll hear tales about the veterans who welcomed him with open arms as a rookie in 2011 and helped mentor him. He'll remind you that there were coaches who worked hard to help him improve.
"Any awards that I've won or success that I've had, a lot of people have contributed to it," Goldschmidt said. "It lets me tell a story about the year and my teammates and the people that helped me."
One award that is no longer in his possession is the 2015 National League Silver Slugger Award. That one belongs to Dodgers hitting coach Turner Ward. It tells the story of a deep friendship that began well before Goldschmidt became a six-time All-Star and seemingly annual MVP candidate.
An early lesson that stuck
The first time their paths crossed in 2011, Ward was managing the D-backs' Double-A affiliate in Mobile, Ala. It was Goldschmidt's third year in the system after being selected in the eighth round of the 2009 Draft.
Ward had one ironclad rule, which he made clear early on: No excuses or complaining. That included things like the weather, the travel or missed calls by umpires.
"If he heard an excuse, no matter what it was, or any complaining, he would jump on it," Goldschmidt said. "It was the first time I kind of changed my mindset. It was the first time someone called me out and I realized how much I was worrying about stuff that didn't matter or was out of my control."
Goldschmidt was called up to the big leagues in August 2011, and in September 2012, Ward got to spend the month as the D-backs' extra coach.
"I loved playing for him as a manager and learned a lot from him, but we didn't start connecting until he came up in September of 2012," Goldschmidt said. "That's when we first started spending a lot of time together."
The discussions started with baseball, but quickly progressed into talks about family, faith and life lessons.
"Goldy never stops learning," Ward said. "He is better than anyone I know at taking the strengths other people have and incorporating them into his own life."
How can I get better?
Ward was promoted to assistant hitting coach the following year. Near the midpoint of the season, Goldschmidt, who was on his way to winning his first Silver Slugger and finishing second in the NL MVP race, approached Ward.
"He asked, 'What do I need to do to get better?'" Ward said. "I told him to give me a couple of weeks and I'd get back to him. I wanted to make sure I had my thoughts together."
Ward laid out three areas of improvement for Goldschmidt. The first two dealt with his personal life and the third involved baseball. Each of the areas was then broken down into challenges.
"If you challenge him with something, he will take it on like no one I've ever seen," Ward said. "He's fearless of any challenge. He did everything we talked about."
When he won his second Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards in 2015, Goldschmidt wanted to share them with those most important to him.
He gave his parents, David and Kim, his Gold Glove Award for all of the sacrifices they made for him growing up. The Silver Slugger went to Ward, along with a handwritten letter detailing just how much he meant to Goldschmidt.
"I thought it would be cool for Turner to have in his house," Goldschmidt said. "So if he showed it to people, he could tell them, 'Paul Goldschmidt gave me this award and we're very close and we've taught each other so many lessons and our relationship is growing and we're still staying in touch and still talking a lot.'
"Let me put it this way: If I didn't win any of my awards, I don't feel like my life would be any different. But if I hadn't met Turner, my life would be completely different. I wanted him to know how much I care about him and love him and how much he means to me. Yes, he had a big effect on my baseball career, but he completely changed my life trajectory."
Ward, who played parts of 12 seasons in the big leagues and has now managed or coached in pro ball for 11 years, said that influence goes both ways.
"I can honestly say that I've never been around a player as coachable, selfless and impactful than Paul," Ward says, his voice breaking a bit. "He makes everyone around him better and it's not by accident. He does it intentionally. I can't tell you how much he's meant to me."
Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.