BY JAMES COOK firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Scott Woodward’s 2011 season was derailed by injuries and 2012 didn’t happen due to them.
So far, 2013 looks like he’ll be hurting a lot of Frontier League teams.
The Traverse City Beach Bums center fielder — who is mostly deaf — has already produced four runs, two RBIs, three steals and three walks through four games.
TC manager Gregg Langbehn said Woodward’s tenacious style on the field is one trait he really likes.
“He plays hard,” Langbehn said. “That’s what he does. I don’t want to call it reckless abandon, but he’s all out all the time. I guess I can see why he got injured in the past. But I’d rather have a guy that does that than one where you can never get it out of him.”
Woodward left the game Tuesday after he was the final out of the sixth inning on a close collision at the plate. He lunged and tried to reach underneath catcher John Nester for the plate.
Langbehn said Woodward got the wind knocked out of him so he replaced him in center with Matt Howard the following inning.
Getting through a season is one of the biggest things for Woodward.
When healthy, he definitely produces. In four seasons at Coastal Carolina, the was in the top 10 in the NCAA in steals.
He was drafted in the seventh round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011, and lasted 31 games at rookie ball before suffering a season-ending elbow injury.
“I was playing outfield and then on one throw I felt it pop,” Woodward said of his elbow. “I tried another (throw) and it just didn’t go anywhere.”
In Beach Bums fans’ first glimpse of him Tuesday, Woodward was 3 for 4 with a double, a run and an RBI to lift his average to .500 for the season.
“I was just trying to get on base,” Woodward said of his early-season 2013 success. “That was the biggest thing. Coming off the Tommy John surgery, there was a little bit of jitters going on, but after that first game, I felt fine.”
He was an early addition to the Beach Bums’ roster, signing on Jan. 25. Part of the reason a player with such outstanding statistics was available was because he was recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow that forced him to miss all of 2012.
“It was too good to pass up,” Langbehn said. “He had a really good career at Coastal (Carolina). He just got derailed by injuries.”
Woodward has been deaf since he was 14 months old, the result of a bout with spinal meningitis. He’s had hearing aids since he was 16 months old.
“I have to make sure we’re looking at each other,” said Langbehn, who also coaches third base when the Bums are at bat. “I don’t anticipate any problems.”
In the minor leagues, Langbehn played for six years with former Detroit Tigers outfielder Curtis Pride, who is also deaf, so it’s nothing new for him.
“If he calls it, get the Hell out of the way,” Langbehn said of Woodward. “That’s coming from him. He says, ‘If I call it, I’m catching it.’ He made a point to talk it over with the other outfielders.”
Playing in center gives Woodward the right of way to any ball hit anywhere close to his direction.
“In center field, because I’m hearing impaired, I have priority over everybody so it’s easier for me to call somebody off if I can get the ball,” Woodward said.
Langbehn liked Woodward’s work ethic right away. The outfielder showed up at 7 a.m. daily during spring training, even though the team doesn’t take the field until 9:30 a.m.
“He’s going to run, there’s no doubt about it,” Langbehn said. “My philosophy with stealing bases is probably going to suit his style.”
And that style is that speed players can run when they see a good opportunity.
Woodward has done that already, stealing one base in the Bums’ opener against Joliet in which he reached base both times he came to the plate before leaving with a minor leg injury after nearly beating out a rundown between third and home.
He pinch hit in the next game and then swiped two bags in Sunday’s 6-2 win, adding an RBI single and two walks.
“He’s got great speed,” Beach Bums hitting coach Shannon Hunt said. “He’s already in gear out of the box. He’s a doubles guy. He’ll hit a single, and if you turn your shoulders the wrong way, you watch and he’ll be standing on second.”
Defensively, he’s making the move to center after playing mostly third base in college and with the Dodgers.
“It’s nothing that new to me,” Woodward said. “I played third base in college and then with the Dodgers organization for a couple months and then moved to the outfield. But in high school, I was a center fielder, and in college I was mainly third base, but played outfield now and then. It always came naturally to me.”