(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
The date was February 13, 2015.
Phoenix Municipal Stadium was hosting its first Arizona State baseball game since 1974 and Tracy Smith was coaching in his first ever Sun Devil game. Sophomore shortstop Colby Woodmansee, who was batting eighth in the game, was at the plate in a tie game in the bottom of the 10th inning. Oklahoma State pitcher Koda Glover delivered a fastball to the plate, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Four games later, Woodmansee was batting in the middle of the ASU order, and he has stayed there ever since. Now, heading into his junior season and likely his final one as a Sun Devil, the do-it-all infielder is considered the face of ASU baseball.
“I feel like that walk-off kicked everything into gear,” he said of his breakout 2015 season. “Guys were telling me it’s my time, go for it.”
The tall, rangy shortstop went from a freshman who hit .200 with a .255 on-base percentage to one of the best players in the Pac-12 and even in the country the following year. In his sophomore season, “Woody,” as he is affectionately called by teammates and fans alike, hit at a .308 clip with 18 doubles, five home runs and 44 RBI. He also upped his OBP to .355. His strong season led to him being first-team all Pac-12.
Woodmansee credited playing summer ball after his freshman year as the start to his rise.
“Coming back here with the new coaching staff and combining their philosophy and approach with what I learned in summer ball really made everything click,” he said.
He hit five home runs and had 15 RBI during the 2014 summer with the Bellingham Bells of the West Coast League. This past summer, he played on the Orleans Firebirds in the Cape Cod League and hit .348 before receiving the invitation to play for Team USA. His stay with the team was short lived, as he injured his elbow just five games into the season. Nonetheless, the opportunity to play for Team USA is a rare achievement for any college baseball player.
Woodmansee is what is described as a very “toolsy” player. He can hit for contact and power, field and run the bases well. In fact, his 6-foot-3 frame has some people believing that he may outgrow the position and be forced to move to the outfield, but Woodmansee believes that he can stick at shortstop.
His size gives him extra range, as he is taller than the average shortstop. Being young, his defense is still evolving. Woodmansee was tied for the team lead with eight errors last season and posted a .968 fielding percentage. He said that he is focusing on improving the up-the-middle play, which he calls his Achilles’ Heel in the field.
Nevertheless, the hype for the shortstop is already in full swing as a new season commences, and accordingly, Woodmansee has become no stranger to preseason accolades.
He was recently named a first-team preseason All-American by Perfect Game USA over other shortstops such as Long Beach State’s Garrett Hampson and Errol Robinson of Ole Miss. He earned another accolade when Perfect Game put him on its preseason All-Conference team. Additionally, he is No. 46 on D1 Baseball’s list of the top-300 prospects.
With many moving parts at other positions, the Sun Devils will be relying on Woodmanesee’s bat as much as ever, and his biggest believer is his head coach.
“Physically he has really made some improvements to his body,” Tracy Smith said. “He works hard and he’s not the most vocal guy, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t lead. He models what we want older guys in our program to do. I think the size and strength piece for him is a bit of a separator of the normal shortstop.”
Smith has gained more familiarity with the team in his second year at the helm, and he knows that Woodmansee will not only be expected to be the star of the offense, but the defense too.
At every level of baseball, but in college baseball especially, big bats at the shortstop position are at a premium, so the Sun Devils are thankful to have Woodmansee and the matchup advantage he brings to the team.
He developed into exactly what ASU needed last season, and that development should continue into the 2016 season. Without a doubt, he will be the main attraction at Phoenix Muni when Opening Day rolls around.