It is a bit funny that there is a such thing as an infield coach in baseball. Take a professional football team as an example. There is the overall offensive coordinator, but then everything after that is broken down into groups -- because, go figure, offensive lineman have a different skill set than wide receivers do.
Baseball isn't that drastic, but the positions across the infield are still different. You coach your shortstop to be fleet of foot, yet you want your first baseman chained to that bag like he is the captain of a sinking ship.
That wide variety of knowledge makes Chris Woodward the perfect infield coach. Woodward spent 12 years in the major leagues with six different teams and, in the process, played virtually every position on the field. If we ever needed a look into the future of Willie Bloomquist's post-baseball career -- look no further than Chris Woodward.
Woodward attended school at Mount San Antonio College, which is an odd college for two reasons. First, Mount San Antonio College is not anywhere near Texas and is instead just east of Los Angeles. Second, the Mount SACs (as the athletics department is so cleverly named) are the Mounties.
But enough of the Mounties and back to Woodward. Woodward was drafted in the 1994 draft with the last pick of the 54th round by the Toronto Blue Jays. He would spend the most years of his playing career with the Blue Jays, eventually cracking the major leagues in 1999 at the age of 23 and staying with the Blue Jays until 2004. He had some good years there, highlighted by his 2002 year where he hit .276/.330/.468 with 13 home runs in 90 games. During that year, he became the first Blue Jay shortstop to hit three home runs in the same game.
He received a slight pay bump after that year where the Blue Jays thought they had their shortstop of the future. After an offensively inefficient and injury riddled 2004, the Blue Jays released Woodward and he signed with the Mets the following year. While with the Mets, the budding infield coach inside of him appeared.
The Mets put Woodward to work in the outfield. He played every position on the field except catcher and pitcher at least once. He relished his role as a role player. Woodward put together his second best hitting season, raking a line of .283/.337/.393 while being that all-around glue guy on the bench. But once again, Woodward couldn't cash in.
In 2006, injuries reared their ugly heads and the Mets unceremoniously sent Woodward packing. He signed with the Atlanta Braves on a one-year deal, but it was the beginning of a disasterous turn in his career. The bat was completely sapped and Woodward was nothing better than an occasional spot in the field and a last resort as a pinch-hitter. He hit under the Mendoza Line in 2007 with the Braves and wasn't able to recover.
2008 saw Woodward as a globe-trotting man. He played with three different minor league affiliates but could never break into the big club until, and you maybe guessed it, the Seattle Mariners gave Woodward a second chance at life. The Mariners extended a spring training invitation to Woodward in 2009, and he played his way onto the club for a brief spell in the summer before he was sent on waivers to make room for Adrian Beltre. He was claimed by the Red Sox but was sent away eight days later. Woodward would try again with both the Blue Jays and Mariners on minor league contracts, but the well had run dry. He retired on Nov. 1, 2012.
Retirement lasted less than a day for Woodward and he was hired as the Mariners minor league infield coordinator. Woodward spent time working with both Nick Franklin and Brad Miller, and when Lloyd McClendon came into town, he got the major league call up. In just two years of coaching, Woodward was in the big leagues.
McClendon raided the farm system when he arrived with a firm belief of promoting from within.
"No. 1, if you have opportunity to promote from within, it's very healthy for the organization," McClendon told Greg Johns. "And if those guys are qualified individuals, it becomes an A-plus, and that's what we have here with a couple guys who are very capable and have similar philosophies."
Woodward's job has its easy portions and its difficult portions. Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager are stalwarts that don't need much worry. Brad Miller and Chris Taylor will still need molding, and whatever ends up happening at first base in the long-term will need a bit of work.
A few more things about Chris Woodward...
- Mount San Antonio College has sent 18 players to the major leagues, but they generally haven't achieved much success. Of the position players, however, Woodward has seen the second most games with 659.
- Woodward is a master of the sacrifice flies. He hit eight during his 2002 stint and that was good for ninth overall in the American League. He also hit a sacrifice fly during the Blue Jay's 2-0 win on the franchise's 2,000th victory.
- Woodward also lends his hand at TV, every once in a while, or just once. He appeared in season three, episode 18 of Degrassi: The Next Generation. He played an announcer at a music competition in the episode "Rock and Roll High School."