Paul Goldschmidt, aka “America’s First Baseman,” hardly seemed destined for stardom. Ignored by major college baseball programs out of high school, the 6’3” Texas State product fell all the way to the eighth round before the Diamondbacks scooped him up in the 2009 Major League Baseball draft, and batted a pedestrian .250 his rookie season. But “Goldie” was stellar in 2013, hitting .302, blasting 36 home runs and placing second in National League MVP voting. The Scottsdale resident, 26, is known not just for his slugging and stout glovesmanship, but for his philanthropy, which has included Christmas shopping with disadvantaged youth and presenting a $100,000 check to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
You came in second place in MVP voting last year. Do you think East Coast bias cost you votes?
No, I don’t think there’s anything like that. I’m happy for [MVP winner and Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen] because he had such a great year. He deserves every bit of that award. It was an honor and fun to be a finalist.
You had a decent season in 2012, but went gangbusters in 2013. How do you explain the transformation?
I wouldn’t say it’s any one big thing. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by some very good players and coaches around my life. I got to work with them every day, and the teammates I’ve had and have been with the past few years have taught me so many things. Coming up to the big leagues is tough for anyone, but I think the veteran guys have been so welcoming to me.
How would you characterize Kirk Gibson as a coach?
I love him. He’s amazing. We have a really good relationship. He’s really knowledgeable. He’s been a player for a long time and played in the World Series, and that’s really valuable to a team. As a player, people saw him as very hard-nosed with a lot of energy, and he’s still very competitive. He’s also so smart and detail-oriented.
How did you spend your time in the offseason?
I stayed out here in Phoenix and love it. When I first got called up in 2011, my wife and I rented a condo, and now we have a house here. We couldn’t be happier – we love it. Especially in the offseason, we enjoy the hiking trails and being outside as much as possible. I do love baseball, but sometimes it’s nice to get away and play some golf or watch a movie.
You completed your bachelor’s degree in management last year from the University of Phoenix. Why was that important to you?
You never know what’s going to be ahead, and I think having a college degree is important. This opens up a lot more options. When I was at Texas State, I was there for three years and put in a lot of hard work, and I didn’t want that to be a waste and wanted to finish up.
What do you like about playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and how long do you see yourself playing here?
I’d love to be here as long as they’ll have me. The fans here are great and have been with me since I got called up. We play in a great stadium and have a great front office and ownership. There’s nothing negative you can say.