Feb. 6, 2013
With Valparaiso's Tracy Woodson
By Sean Ryan
Woodson (left) has accomplished much in his long baseball
He was an ACC Player of the Year during a
brilliant career at NC State and named to the ACC’s 50th
Anniversary Team. He spent five years in the major leagues,
winning a World Series title with Orel Hershiser, Kirk Gibson
and the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988. He was a minor league
manager in rookie, Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A ball.
Woodson, who took over the Valparaiso program
before the 2007 season, checked off one more item on his
baseball bucket list in 2012: guiding the Crusaders to a Horizon
League championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament, the
program’s first since 1968. The Crusaders tied the school record
with 35 wins and capped last season by winning 27 of 34 games.
In addition to guiding the Crusaders, Woodson
continues to serve as a Division I basketball referee.
click here for 2008 Tracy Woodson feature
1. It’s been a building process at
Valpo the past few years. What did it mean for your team to
reach the NCAA Tournament last year?
When my staff and I came in six years ago, I
wanted to make sure we built a program the right way. My
decisions were not based on quick fixes but by building from the
ground up. We knew we had to get better in all areas including
academics, fundamentals and discipline. These results were felt
last year by reaching our goal of a Horizon League Championship
and an NCAA bid.
As the defending champion, you're the team to beat. How is that
different than in past years?
Our staff and players’ expectations are the same every year.
We may have the target on our back this year, but that does not
change how we enter the season every year. Our guys prepare the
same way regardless of the previous season.
3. What do you expect from your offense, which returns a
handful of your top hitters?
I feel this is our best offense that we have put on the
field since I got here. We have a number of returners plus the
addition of two top JUCO hitters from California as well as an
outfielder returning from an ACL [injury] the previous year. We
expect to score runs in many different ways.
4. Conversely, you need to replace two of your weekend
starters. Who steps into those roles and how does that affect
the rest of your pitching depth?
I have two transfers that were successful at their previous
schools that will fill the weekend spots. Our bullpen was good
last year, but is much deeper and mature this year. Karch
Kowalczyk returns from Tommy John surgery last year to anchor
the bullpen. He has been 91 to 93 throughout fall and spring
5. Describe your NCAA tourney
experience in 2012.
As much as I hate to say it, we did not perform
to our capabilities at our Regional. We might have been just
happy to be there. I think after getting a taste of what it is
like, our mindset is now to get back and win games. I believe
when you are a team that has not been there on a regular basis
it becomes a learning experience. Our guys learned a lot!
(photos courtesy of Valparaiso Media