Robert Woodard the go-to guy

Robert Woodard became the go-to guy for manager Greg Riddoch and the Eugene Emeralds down the stretch. If the team had a lead, Woodard was assured of seeing the ball in his hands. The reliever relished in such a role.

Talk to me about getting drafted and what that meant for you?

Robert Woodard: It was one of the more exciting times in my career as a baseball player.

I have always dreamed about – I was a big Braves fan but my second team has always been the Padres. I went out to San Diego and lived there for six weeks the summer after my freshman year, lived in Ocean Beach, was out there on my own and didn't know anybody. I would just work out every day and at night would go to PETCO to watch the Padres. I really fell in love with the city.

I worked out with Tom House out there and was really excited when I got the call from Ash Lawson, the scout that drafted me, and they said they were going to take me. I couldn't be happier than getting selected by the Padres.

I had a quick turnaround from the College World Series but I would not have it any other way. I have been very fortunate.

Two years in a row you are going deep into the College World Series. Talk about that experience.

Robert Woodard: I had been watching the College World Series since I was six years old. It is one of those things you put as a goal – you put the College World Series up on this pedestal. You can't really imagine playing there until you are there. When you are there you have to tell yourself – ‘well, we might as well win.'

It was something that was a lifelong dream. Our players and our coaching staff worked extremely hard to get there. I have a lot of fond memories. It was probably one of the biggest things in my career – to look at where the program of UNC went from the time I got there till the time I left and where the program is today. It is a great feeling knowing the program is better because of our recruiting class.

You chose North Carolina knowing it was all about basketball, some leisure golf, the Bible Belt and Tobacco Road. How did you guys change the landscape – and now football is getting good to. The rich get richer.

Robert Woodard: The athletic director id Dick Baddour and I didn't get to know him very well my freshman year and towards the end of my sophomore year he started showing up more – as much as he could be since he is a busy guy with a lot going on. We definitely saw him. He definitely cared about the program. I think that has been the case.

He promoted our assistant coach Chad Holbrook to associate head coach after 14 years of working with the program – I think that is a great tribute to Dick Baddour and the administration for saying, ‘Look, we have a good thing here and we are going to do what we can to keep it in place.'

Mack Brown proved we could have a winning program in football so he hired Butch Davis, an established winner, and brining in Roy Williams.

It is just a commitment to excellence at the University of North Carolina. It is why I have been a Carolina fan my whole life. It was a dream of mine to pitch at Carolina...I take that back. It was a dream of mine to play shooting guard at North Carolina. The shooting guard turned into pitching when I realized I was running an 8-flat sixty (yard dash) and I couldn't play very well defense.

Could you dunk?

Robert Woodard: (laughter) No, no...absolutely not.

How did you grow as a baseball player from when you first arrived at North Carolina to today?

Robert Woodard: Carolina surrounded me with a lot of great resources and people. Coach Roger Williams was my pitching coach the first two years. It didn't matter if you were on 80-percent scholarship or a walk-on, he was going to work with you the same. You were going to get your chances in intra-squad and in games. Some guys get more chances than others but that is life. You have to make the most of the opportunities.

Looking back I maximized seizing the opportunities that I got and was fortunate to work myself into a mid-week role. Someone got hurt or didn't go to class and I worked into a weekend role. I grabbed on that and was able to maintain it for the rest of my career. It was one of those things where each day was an opportunity to learn.

And now you are working with guys who have been in the major leagues and know what it takes to get there. What have you been able to learn from Tom Bradley?

Robert Woodard: TB is awesome. I am a little unorthodox in the way I go about pitching and he has been around long enough – he allows everyone to come in and feels out certain things. He looks at their strengths and weaknesses and tries to work on their weaknesses and maintain their strengths.

We focused a lot more on the mental aspect of the game, especially with Greg Riddoch and TB and their experience at the major league level because that is where we are all trying to get to. That is a new tool that I am not necessarily used to. I could not have asked for a better situation.

What is your weakness then?

Robert Woodard: I would say my weakness is probably my arm strength. My velocity – I don't throw as hard as many of these guys, if not all of them. That is something I have gotten used to over my career. Some view it as a weakness. I like to look at it as I really don't take a pitch off from a concentration standpoint. The harder you throw, the more room for error there is. When you throw slower, you really have to stay locked in. If you watch the Tom Glavine's and Greg Maddux's and Jamie Moyer's – guys that throw mid-eighties. If you look at their demeanor, presence and the way they go about their work, they don't take a pitch off. I try and do the same thing.

I would say my velocity is a weakness but at the same time that comes back around and I can actually use that as a strength.

What is your out pitch?

Robert Woodard: It depends. It depends on the hitter; it depends on the count; it depends on the day. I don't know if I have a single out pitch.

I have a sinking fastball. I try and work both sides of the plate and up and down. A slider that I have confidence in on both sides of the plate and a changeup I have confidence in. Throwing slower there is a lot less room for error. I try and maintain the command and keep it in the back of the hitter's mind that you can't get too comfortable or sit on one pitch. Even though it is going to be 85, if he is sitting on a changeup in a 2-1 pitch, a fastball might get by him.


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