SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Chris Woodward thinks long-term and appreciates the everyday grind of the game, having been a utility infielder over a dozen seasons and serving as a third base coach in the World Series each of the past two years.
Still, Woodward allowed himself to consider where he had come from to being a first-time manager when the Texas Rangers pitchers and catchers held their first workout of spring training Wednesday.
“There’s something special about it. To think, just kind of go back to my career, and I kind of mentioned that to the guys today,” Woodward said. “When you’ve been through so much as a player and then as a coach, just the ups and downs, you kind of start to look back and think about, ‘Man, this thing started when I was 18, could I be standing at this moment.’ … I’m going to enjoy it.”
Woodward’s daily spring training commute from his home in Chandler, Arizona, has gotten longer this spring — from about 40 minutes each way to a solid hour, extra time he uses to listen to more documentaries.
The 42-year-old Woodward has gone from being the third base coach for the two-time defending National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers to managing a Rangers team with a bunch of 20-something position players and a revamped rotation that is coming off consecutive losing seasons for the first time in a decade. But he hasn’t changed his expectations.
“We’re building a championship mentality. Like that’s first and foremost. He didn’t hire me to finish third,” Woodward said, referring to general manager Jon Daniels standing beside him. “It’s lofty expectation, but you have to start that belief right now. … We’ve got to give them the process, define it for them, help them understand it, and provide the atmosphere.”
Before opening camp, the Rangers had their most comprehensive organization meeting in a dozen years, with about 190 people gathering together in a resort ballroom Monday. That is about three times as many people as typically attend their meeting at the start of spring training.
“Everybody in baseball operations,” Daniels said. “Stood up at the front of the room, and you realize the size of the operations. It’s large.”
There were about 55 people hired in the past 12 months among the group, including the manager who replaced Jeff Banister after last season.
“A variety of things. I think probably the biggest was to introduce some of the new people that are on board, and some of the things, the initiatives that we’re focused on, and just communication throughout the organization,” Daniels said. “It was a little bit of like looking to pull back the curtain and try to be as transparent as we can on what we’re doing, why we’re doing it.”
When there was a show of hands from the people that attended the last full organization meeting in January 2007, Daniels said about 30 people had also been at that one before Texas won consecutive AL pennants in 2010 and 2011.
Rangers pitchers opened spring training Wednesday doing long toss and some fielding drills without any bullpen sessions. Their day on the field got started later than usual, and that is likely to be the case until they begin to play spring training games.
“Let these guys get their rest,” said Woodward, who played for five big league teams and coached for two others. “On teams that I played on in the past, and coached on, you try to look like you’re the best team out there because you’re out there the longest. Let’s be the most efficient in what we do, work the best while we’re doing it so we don’t have to be there five hours a day.”
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