One of the great things about having children is that after a long hiatus of being too old for children’s movies, you are suddenly thrust right in the middle of them. With your kids you watch them over and over again.
My oldest was born in 1995 – the same year that “Toy Story” was released. I’ve seen it countless times. There is no doubt about my favorite character. It is not the daft, pompous, blow hard Buzz Lightyear. No, I am a Woody guy.
Chris Woodward was 21 years old when “Toy Story” hit the big screen. He was smack dab in the middle of that era in man’s life where he does not watch kid flicks. Besides, he was very busy then. After being taken in the 54th round of the draft he had a huge mountain to climb just to make it to Major League Baseball.
Little did this “Woody” know, back then how much he had in common with his fictitious counterpart. Whereas “Toy Story’s” Woody had to earn back the affection of Andy, this Woody had to beat out hundreds of players in his own organization just to get a shot at the show.
It took five years, but on June 7, 1999, Chris Woodward made his major league debut with the Toronto Blue Jays. He had an RBI in his first big league game, driving in a run with a sacrifice fly. Perhaps that was an appropriate start, because he would make so many sacrifices along the way to a 12-year career as a player.
He played for six different organizations during his dozen years in the big leagues. That means moving around two countries (because he played for Toronto twice) with a wife and a young family.
That means never being 100% sure if you are going to be able to continue your dream of playing big league baseball. It means failing a lot; after all, baseball is a game of failure.
Through it all Woody maintained a positive attitude, a joyous approach to life and a love of the game of baseball. There was no doubt that he wanted to continue to live in that world after his playing days were over.
After two stops as an assistant coach, two years in Seattle and three with the Dodgers, he got a chance to manage. Fortunately for Rangers fans, Jon Daniels and his staff had done their homework and knew who they wanted as the manager to lead a rebuild that was set to begin. They wanted Woody, and in 2019 they got him.
A rebuild is hard for everyone. Fans become less interested, media becomes more critical as the team becomes less competitive. This is very difficult for the high-energy, ultra-competitive type of guy who is drawn toward managing. It is particularly tough for a guy in his first stint as a manager.
He wonders if he is doing the right things; he wonders if he will get the right players; he wonders if he will be given the chance to see the rebuild though.
The answer to those questions is Yes, Yes and Yes! Woody followed his instincts and pushed all the right buttons during those woeful seasons of 2020 and 2021. He patiently waited until the Rangers gave him the right core of players, and now he has a chance to see this thing through to fruition.
A big league manager conducts about 500 press conferences during the course of the season. He sits down with the media before and after 162 games. He often does two press conferences per day in spring training. Add in a few announcements and random interview requests, and you get to 500 interviews in 225 days. Woody handles each one with a smile on his face and positivity in his tone. Even during the 102-loss season that was 2021 he stayed positive and almost never lost his cool with a group of writers and broadcasters who had to ask some tough questions.
His positivity has paid dividends, too. Because he believes so much, because he works so hard to make the team the best it can be, because he knows exactly how he wants the team to play, they are buying in.
This team is headed in the right direction. That’s in part because they spent a lot of money to help expedite the rebuild. But they are headed in the right direction because the leader, the captain, the manager who knows where he’s going and how to get there.
So, 27 years later I can still say without hesitation, “I am a Woody guy”.