An injury has the tendency to make or break a career in collegiate baseball, but for Woody Woodward it has only made him stronger. Pessimism is a word that Woodward, a redshirt sophomore, does not know or care to ever know.
Last year, the UCSB baseball team was one day away from heading north to face the University of San Francisco in a late-March matchup. During practice, Woodward, then the starting second baseman, injured his hand in a scrimmage.
"One at bat against Dalton Douty—and I knew something was hurt," said Woodward. "That day, I took x-rays and I went to a hand specialist the next day and he said it was 'okay.'
But Woodward wasn't out of the woods yet.
"After getting a second opinion from a family-friend doctor, he told me I would be out 8-12 weeks. The next step we took was looking into a medical redshirt option," Woodward said.
Always staying optimistic, Woody knew that this injury was something that he couldn't have controlled, so he dealt with it in the best way he could.
"It was a tough injury to handle," he explained. "But looking back on it, it has made a big difference in my career."
Very thankful for the support from his family, team, and coaches, Woody believes that his recovery process made him a better baseball player.
"Its just one of those things and you just do whatever you can to make it better," Woodward said. "I worked a lot with Ross (Silverman) and Lewis (Rojas) in the weight room to get my lower body strong. Only being able to run and throw, I tried to better his technique in those exercises."
While he was injured, Woodward focused on being the best teammate possible. It was hard for him to be at every game due to doctor appointments and check-ups, but he stayed connected through, and greatly appreciated. the clinics that the UCSB baseball team participated in with disabled children from the local community.
"Going through everyday life, we don't realize how blessed we all are, and going to see these kids to play catch with is really fun for us," he said. "I feel honored to make such an impression on these kids in the clinics."
The clinics inspired Woody by putting things in perspective.
"I only have a cast, but these kids have disabilities that hinder their whole life," he said.
Never losing sight of what is important in the game of baseball is what fueled Woodward's recovery.
"Playing the game the right way—we play the game to win," Woodward said. "It is not about personal accolades or goals. That's where people get lost."
After fighting off his injury, Woodward successfully fought his way back into the 2013 UCSB lineup. To this point in the season, he has seen playing time at second base, left field, and right field and he's batted as high as second in the order.
Woody doesn't want to jinx his successful season thus far (.385 batting average, .510 on-base percentage) by talking about his successful return, but he does know that whether its "me getting the job done or a teammate, it doesn't matter, as long as we keep winning."
Making his solid comeback season more impressive is the fact that Woodward is currently battling bicep tendinitis in his throwing arm – the result of "the grind of college baseball," as he put it.
Baseball isn't everything for Woodward – he is very involved with UCSB's Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB). He enjoys being involved with the leadership opportunity because he feels fortunate to be able to influence athletes by giving back to the community and staying involved with UCSB.
Between his on-field exploits, ties to the community, and his efforts with SAAB on the UCSB campus, it is clear the Gauchos have a keeper in Woodward.