Valpo’s Woodson seeing Success on Diamond and Hardcourt

FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE

TracyWoodsonValpo Tracy Woodson is no novice when it comes to working in college athletics. A Division I head baseball coach is a feat in itself, but unlike most other head coaches, Woodson is also a Division I men’s basketball official.

Woodson, in his fourth season leading the Valparaiso baseball program, is the only coach the Crusaders have had since joining the Horizon League in 2007-08. He came to Valparaiso with eight years of professional baseball coaching and managing experience and 13 seasons of professional playing experience.

"I love coaching and I missed it," Woodson said about taking the Valparaiso job.

Woodson’s remarkable baseball experience and knowledge of the game have benefitted Valparaiso’s baseball program in a number of ways, and his players really trust him.

"A huge factor for me attending Valparaiso was the background and experience of our coaches," said sophomore outfielder Kyle Gaedele. "Coach Woodson has so much wisdom and so much knowledge of the game that you just listen to everything that he has to say."

It appears as if Woodson’s wisdom is paying off. In 2009, Valparaiso recorded its first winning season since 1999, finishing 28-24 overall.

Last year’s record was a nine-game improvement from the 2008 campaign (21-35) and eight games better than the 2007 season (22-34).

"Coach Woodson is really good about coaching the mental side of the game," said junior infielder Damon McCormick. "He keeps everybody under control and on an even keel."

Keeping the team under control is not only an important attribute of a quality coach, but also an essential characteristic of a top-notch official. It’s no wonder Woodson is a successful Division I baseball coach and basketball referee.

Woodson got his start as a referee in 1984 when he took a job officiating basketball at the YMCA.

"I was refereeing basketball at the YMCA just to get a free membership," Woodson recalled.

He was apparently a natural because not long after Woodson began working at the "Y," people started noticing his talent.

"I had somebody tell me that I needed to start refereeing high school games," Woodson said. "So I started doing high school, I went to a couple of camps and it just ballooned."

Woodson’s collegiate officiating career took off in 1996, and since then he has worked 332 games, including 18 this season. Woodson most commonly referees for the Atlantic 10 and Southeastern Conferences.

And despite the demands with both of his careers, Woodson successfully manages to do both.

"It’s been a good fit," Woodson said about his coaching position at Valparaiso. "I do my best to not miss anything here. If I have a recruit coming in, I just take a weekend off from refereeing."

In addition, Woodson only referees one or two games a week starting in January, which allows him to focus on each upcoming baseball season.

Valparaiso has been picked by the coaches to finish fourth in the Horizon League this season, but the Crusaders plan to finish higher than the preseason expectation.

"We are getting the players that we want here, and we are becoming more athletic," Woodson said about his squad. "We just keep getting better."

And Woodson knows a thing or two about being successful. In 1988, he became a World Series champion as in infielder with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Crusaders open their regular season on Feb. 19 with a three-game series against McNeese State in Lake Charles, La.

Valparaiso is also set to host the 2010 Horizon League Baseball Championship, May 26-30, at the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind.

Now, Woodson has his eyes set on becoming a Horizon League champion.