Goodale Pitching His Way to Stellar Season in the Horseshoe Pits
Clinton resident Mark Goodale is emerging as one of the most prolific players in the Deep River Horseshoe League (DRHL). A member of the league for several seasons, Mark continues to improve his own game as he also helps his team, the Marlins, by lending expertise to his colleagues. Mark has learned a lot about horseshoes as the years have gone on and is enjoying the experience of teaching the sport to the next generation of local players.
Mark plays in the A Division of the DRHL, which is currently in the midst of its 67th season. Thus far this year, competitors in the A Division are averaging 113 points, 26 ringers, and 4 doubles in a series. Mark has been topping those numbers and then some by posting an average of 146 points, 37 ringers, and 7 doubles per series on the season.
Mark attributes his stellar performance in the DRHL to the vast amount of experience that he gets with throwing shoes in other arenas. Mark plays in tournaments in Rhode Island and also competes at the Central Connecticut Horseshoe Club in East Hartford during the winter months.
“Tournament play outside of Deep River has probably helped me the most. You could almost pitch every other weekend in a tournament if you wanted to,” says Mark, 65. “Pitching alongside people that are more proficient than you helps me the most. If you’re pitching alongside someone who’s better than you are, it encourages you to do better and learn how to do better.”
Mark’s start in the DRHL came when he went to a few matches as a spectator in 2016 and was asked to fill in as a sub by Frank Jolly, who was the league president at the time. Jolly and Mark’s wife Hollie encouraged Mark to stick with it after he competed for a few weeks. Mark continued playing and, with the continued support of many members of the league, his skills as a horseshoe pitcher have significantly improved over the years.
“I was able to see progress each year I’ve been in the league. I owe a lot of the credit to some of the former players that encouraged me when I first started,” Mark says. “There certainly is enough people there that are willing to share their experience or insights on how to pitch well. It’s a very encouraging environment.”
Mark is helping his team have a solid season as the Marlins are currently in the mix to qualify for the DRHL Playoffs with their record of 44.5-39.5. Mark is hoping that his efforts will help the Marlins make it to the playoffs in a league that’s seen some intense competition at all levels this summer.
“It’s always nice to come out on top. It doesn’t always happen when you think it will happen or the way it will happen. I’ve learned that,” says Mark. “This year is the tightest playoff race that I’ve experienced there. All of the teams are within a couple games of each other, so it’s been very competitive.”
DRHL statistician Joe Heery admires the skillset that Mark brings to the horseshoe pits and enjoys competing against him as a fellow player in the league. Heery describes Mark as one of the most impactful players that the DRHL has seen in recent years.
“Mark has been a real student of the game. We nicknamed him, ‘The Machine,’ and that’s because he’s so methodical and everything is so precise on his execution of throwing the shoe,” Heery says. “He’s amazing to watch, and he’s such a personable player, too.”
While he’s always striving to improve his own skills, Mark also goes out of his way to show other players in the league ways that they can raise their game. Mark takes a serious approach to the sport of horseshoes and wants to serve as a role model who other people can turn to for advice.
“The last two years, there has been a good influx of younger players. I just hope I can mentor or encourage those guys as I was from some of the older players,” says Mark. “The first bit of advice I’d give them is be patient with yourself. It’s going to take longer than you think it will to master the game.”
Mark’s presence in the DRHL is leaving a lasting impact on a league that features a deep tradition. Every year presents a new challenge, but it’s always exciting for Mark to compete in the playoffs at the end of the season.
“It would be great to get in the mix. I hope we can upset a team or two and come out well,” Mark says. “You battle for the regular season and then, when the playoffs come, almost like any other sport, anything can happen. You just leave it up to see what happens.”
Aside from playing in the DRHL each week, Mark works for a residential construction company in Essex and has been in the industry for 40 years. While he’s become one of the top players in the league, the best part about participating in the DRHL goes far beyond the competition for Mark.
“The best part about it is meeting different people. You get a chance to mix up the teams each year, so there aren’t any dynasties,” says Mark. “You get a chance to make new friends and get to know people. The sport of horseshoes itself is challenging, but it’s a lot of fun.”