Ten days before his retirement from the United States Coast Guard, Capt. Jeffrey Good was one of the kids, blending in with a group of baseball players practicing on a rare comfortable June night at Baranof Field that didn’t require long sleeves.
After watching players — including his 19-year-old son Chase — pepper the green and red artificial turf surface with baseballs during a two-hour batting practice, Jeff grabbed an aluminum bat, took a few swings and settled into the right-handed side of the batter’s box.
Midway through his round, Jeff launched a ball into the cloudless blue sky. An effortless swing that caught the players' attention as they followed the path of the white ball cutting through the Kodiak air. The ball hit the 10-foot high chain-linked fence, just a few feet from clearing the top and landing in a grassy knoll located on the other side of the wall in left field.
“Warning track power,” he could be heard saying.
Not bad for a 49-year-old who ends a three-decade career in the Coast Guard today when he retires as commander of Coast Guard Base Kodiak.
Because Jeff is reluctant to talk about himself, not many people know that his natural athletic ability ultimately led him to the Coast Guard.
Growing up in Eunice, New Mexico, a town of 3,000 residents located 61 miles from football hotbed Odessa, Texas, Good honed the leadership qualities that elevated him to the one of highest ranks in the Coast Guard through athletics — and it started at an early age.
Bill Good, Jeff’s father, remembers taking his son golfing when he was 8 years old. It was then he realized that his son wasn’t like other kids roaming the neighborhood.
“I told him the rules. You didn’t move a ball. Wherever it laid, well, that is where you hit it,” Bill said. “That’s what he did. That’s the way he always was, a very humble and honest fellow.”
As he got older, Jeff inherited the nickname “Clark Kent” because he didn’t drink or smoke — his focus was on sports, because that is what kids in Eunice did. Jeff’s high school graduating class of 1989 had 42 seniors.
“Wherever they needed people, I raised my hand,” said Jeff, who ran track and played golf, baseball, basketball and football.
According to Bill, Jeff, in his senior year, led the state’s football teams with 1,200 receiving yards — 400 more than any other wide receiver — and nearly won a basketball state championship. Bill said Jeff’s team bowed out of the state tournament on a buzzer-beater.
“I thought he was really going to be upset over this,” Bill said. “I ran down to the entrance of the stadium where he would be coming out. The whole team was crying, but Jeff. He told me, ‘Don’t let them see you cry.”’
Jeff excelled at every sport, but football is where he garnered attention from college coaches. He was offered an athletic scholarship to NCAA Division II New Mexico Highlands University, and an academic scholarship and an opportunity to walk-on to play at Division I New Mexico State University. He even had a chance to attend West Point.
He turned down all offers, all because his football coach recommended him to the coaches at the Coast Guard Academy.
Coming from landlocked New Mexico, Jeff had never heard of the Coast Guard but thanks to his coach, his mailbox was getting filled with applications and information from the academy, located in Connecticut.
“I filled it out and got a call from the football coach,” Jeff said. “He walked me through everything. This was before the internet, and you actually had to do research to figure out what the Coast Guard was.”
The Coast Guard’s core values — honor, respect and devotion to duty — represented Jeff and in the fall of 1989, he was playing wide receiver for the Coast Guard Academy Bears, an NCAA Division III school.
“He was a very organized kid. He had all his stuff ready for school the following day and his room was always neat,” Bill said. “He was just a very squared away guy — he likes the rules. I thought the academy would be perfect for him.”
The rigors of the first year were rough on Jeff, to the point where he told his dad that he was done with the academy and asked him to find a summer job for him. Bill found his son a job with Texaco, but Jeff, not somebody who gives up, went back to the academy.
“Sophomore year was way better,” he said. “I really enjoyed it and developed some strong friendships.”
The Coast Guard Academy ran a run-heavy wish-bone offense, which led to Jeff transitioning from receiver to secondary — safety, free safety and cornerback. He was a stalwart on defense for the next three seasons, flashing Division I potential.
“For me, it was an escape from the day-to-day grind of being a cadet at the academy,” he said.
After graduating from the academy, Jeff planned to fulfill his five-year commitment to the Coast Guard and then get out. That didn’t happen. The Coast Guard sent him to graduate school at Duke, and he met his wife Christy while stationed in Juneau. The couple soon had two kids — Chase and Keely — to support and raise.
He decided to keep on the uniform.
The Goods have been stationed in 11 different places from the East Coast to the West Coast and have been in 49 states — they plan to cross North Dakota off the list this summer.
In 2017, Jeff took command of Coast Guard Base Kodiak. Having been stationed on The Rock in the late 2000s, returning to the island was important. He started lobbying for his appointment as commander two years before getting promoted.
“We knew the community of Kodiak,” he said. “When we left Kodiak the first time, my goal was to try to get back here. We really enjoyed it.”
Jeff spent portions of his East Coast tours living a three-to-six-hour drive away from his family, who took up roots in North Carolina. He visited the family on the weekends and often missed Chase’s baseball games.
“It was a lot of driving,” he said.
Being in Kodiak allowed him to watch Chase on the diamond and Keely — who is special needs — compete in local Special Olympics games. He even joined her on the golf course, channeling the swing he perfected by hitting balls as a youth in the backyard of the family home.
During Jeff’s tenure as commander, his primary focus was to take care of his coworkers, a trait he inherited on the playing field, always giving credit to teammates. He turned some of the barracks into guest housing for people who transferred here with pets, while also creating two-bedroom units for the junior enlisted.
“The thing that I love about the Coast Guard is how everyone works together to get the mission done and how supportive each of my coworkers are to help me succeed and for me to help them succeed,” Jeff said.
The majority of his days as commander were spent in meetings and doing paperwork, but he cherished seeing coworkers advance in their jobs, while preparing them for leadership roles.
“I’ve always told him, even though you have the higher rank and the higher job, the people below you are the ones who make you — you need to help them all you can,” Bill said. “Don’t ever look down on anybody, and he hasn’t.”
Bill is Jeff’s biggest fan and one proud pappa. When Bill walks into a local coffee shop in Oklahoma, his friends already know what the topic of conversation is going to be.
“People say, here comes Bill Good wanting to talk about his kid again,” Bill said.
Bill, a native of Oklahoma, spent six years in the Marine reserves. He dated Jeff’s mom, Mina, in high school and got married after graduating. In 1962, they left Oklahoma — where finding a job was difficult — to look for employment in New Mexico. Both Bill and Mina found jobs in the oil industry, while their family grew by three with the addition of two daughters and a son — at 49, Jeff is the youngest.
Jeff’s parents supported him in all his athletic endeavors and made trips to the academy to watch him play football. Mina died in 2012, and Bill has since remarried and relocated back to Oklahoma.
“When I did struggle, they were always there to lean on and get advice from,” Jeff said. “That love and support was definitely a blessing for me, and I definitely don’t take it for granted because I know a lot of people don’t have that.”
Jeff was taught at a young age to treat everybody with respect, which is why civilians don’t even realize that he is a captain in the Coast Guard. Christy regularly hears stories about her husband’s friendliness and how he leads.
“The thing I appreciate about Jeff is that he is here for the people,” she said. “He is really personable. Jeff and his dad have a special bond, and they both really do care about people.”
Entering the world as a civilian scares Jeff, but he is looking forward to the next chapter of his life. The family is moving to Christy’s hometown of Wrangell, where Jeff, who has a civil and naval engineering background, will work remotely for an aerial imaging company based in Texas. Christy, an avid sports enthusiast, hopes to pursue her passion for coaching. She was involved with many sports teams on the island, including Special Olympics and Kodiak’s American Legion baseball team.
“We are going to miss it here,” Christy said. “It has been very hard for me to wrap my mind around leaving because I get so emotional. Kodiak has been so good to us. Chase and Keely both started school here, and it is just so weird that they ended it here.”
Bill’s plans to attend Jeff’s retirement ceremony were erased because of COVID-19, but was not surprised that his son spent 31 years — 27 commissioned and four in the academy — serving America.
“Whenever he goes to do something, he wants to be the very best at it,” said Bill, while giving an example of Jeff turning into the top home run hitter on a slowpitch softball team he played on in California by studying and filming his swing.
When told about Jeff nearly going yard at Baranof Field, Bill responded, “Wow, he can still hit that ball.”