Around the Bases with Robert Woodard

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Robert Woodard joined the Tar Heel baseball coaching staff at the conclusion of the regular season, replacing Matt McCay. Inside Carolina chatted with him about his return to Chapel Hill ...

Can you discuss the shoulder injury that brought your pro career to a premature end but ultimately landed you here at UNC?

"It is just without a doubt the toughest thing that I have ever had to go through physically and mentally. I have had to pitch through a shoulder impingement for years and that is painful but you can pitch through it. What I was dealing with was a pain that for the first time in my life I could not command the ball and it hurt so bad sometimes that I was nauseous. It was mind-blowing to me that it could be that painful to pitch.

"I went on and off the DL twice and last summer rolled around and I had to have surgery. I had two tears in my labrum and one was a slap tear. I had that done on July 1st and lived in a LaQuinta Inn and Suites in Peoria, Arizona from July 1st to November 20th and every morning I would go for two to three hours for rehab at our complex. It was just a daily grind and battle and Thanksgiving I came back to Charlotte and worked with (physical therapist) Alan Tyson for three to four days a week, three to four hours at a time, coming back from the shoulder surgery - and everything was right on track until my seventh or eighth bullpen in spring training this year. It hurt so bad that I thought I might have torn it again. It hurt so bad to the point where there is a certain point of pain that you can pitch with and still command the ball but this was un-commandable - I don't know how to describe it. It turned out to be a bad impingement and it cost me two weeks on the mound and at the end of spring training ... they released me.

"After a month I told myself that I would continue my rehabilitation but I never felt right on the mound. I was anxious to start another path and I thought it might be professional scouting or player development and the phone rang from Coach Forbes and Coach Fox and here I am."

How did your collegiate and professional baseball career prepare you to join the UNC coaching staff?

"I think I have seen a lot of the highs and lows and I understand some of the challenges not only of being a student-athlete but a professional athlete on a day-to-day basis. I think that has prepared me and that is what has helped me the most."

Looking back on your playing career – from never losing a game pitching at home to being the winningest pitcher in the UNC record books – do you reflect on that now that you're a coach?

"I have not had a chance to I guess - it has been a whirlwind returning to Chapel Hill. My main concern every day, and I think my approach I am trying to take, is that my playing days are over and all my efforts and energies really are taking my experience - and not so much the success I have had but the whole picture - to help the guys on the team any way I can help them. If it takes my experience in pitching in big games to share with the young guys and how to approach and handle and deal with that sort of thing... I don't think too much about the perspective on it."

Discuss your relationship with UNC head coach Mike Fox from your time as a recruit to now as a member of his coaching staf.

"One of the things I have loved about Coach Fox over the years is that he really loves all of his players. It sounds weird and sometimes it is tough love and you don't understand it at the time but he cares about each player as a person and I have always respected that because he does not have to be that way and a lot of coaches are not that way. I feel like our relationship has evolved and I look at him now more as a mentor professionally for the remainder of my career and I consider him a close friend and I know that if I am ever in a bind or a jam that I could go to him and that is not always the case for other coaches."

Can you give an early report on your duties as an assistant coach with the Diamond Heels?

"I've just been thrown in the fire as far as camp coordination, organizing and staffing and everything is very exciting. I love that aspect of it - being able to work with the kids. It is great because I used to come to the camps and so it is a little surreal being that I am organizing and being in charge of them. As far as the team goes I am another set of eyes and hands for Coach Forbes with our pitching staff and Coach Fox and I have talked and as far as the position players and hitters I am right there as well, learning as well as working with those guys. Hopefully at some point - I am not sure - coach first base as well."

Have you had any discussions about getting your old number back from Garrett Davis?

"To some people it is kind of important but there is so much on my plate right now as far as getting to know the guys, finding a place to live and getting everything set up. It is not one of the top things. The guys in the ticket office that I know and my family are always asking about it. Garrett is awesome and if he wants 20 it is his number now."

Coach Fox likes to emphasize the academic nature of the student-athlete balance for the baseball team. How does your experience as a Patterson Award-winning student-athlete help you relate to the players?

"I think because, just like I said earlier, I have been there. I know and remember how tired you are at the end of the day during your freshman year. I know how demanding it can be. I know how sometimes - especially when you are younger - you are struggling with something you don't want to admit it. That can sometimes can get you into trouble if you are struggling with a course and don't want to admit it - it can sort of snowball. I am hoping to be able to be the coach that is not so far removed that guys can come to and say 'Hey, I'm having a tough time with this, what would you do?' I'm not that far removed and so I think that one of the aspects of being here that I am looking forward to the most is really helping guys because it can be tough."

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