RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Tracy Woodson and his family left Richmond seven years ago when he became the baseball coach at Valparaiso in Indiana, a program working on four decades without an NCAA tournament appearance.
He always said he'd be back, and on Tuesday, he was introduced as the new baseball coach at Richmond. He'll try to revive a sagging program, but one with a history of success.
"We're going to win here. I'll tell you that right now," the former major leaguer said, noting that people told him he was crazy when he said the same thing at Valparaiso. His record there was 187-210.
In his sixth season, despite subpar facilities, Woodson guided the Crusaders to 35 victories and their first NCAA tournament in 44 years. A year later, in 2012, as if to prove it wasn't a fluke the first time, he did it again.
The rebuilding job at Richmond doesn't figure to be as difficult. Richmond's history includes eight NCAA tournament trips, the last in 2003, and one trip to a super regional, which came in 2002.
He replaced Mark McQueen, who resigned after six seasons with a record of 156-161-4.
Woodson, 50, played five years in the major leagues with the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals. He was a member of the Dodgers' World Series champions in 1988. When he describes himself, he sounds like as a player's coach — talking about his open-door policy, saying that his communication skills is one his strengths and that his rapport with his team is crucial.
"When the door's closed and I'm with my team, they're going to know who's in charge," he said. "I think kids at this age, they want guidance, they want to work and they want to get better."
Woodson, who also managed for seven years in the minor leagues, was among several candidates the Spiders considered, athletic director Keith Gill said.
"When you think about all of the factors, all of the characteristics that we were looking for in a head baseball coach, Tracy embodies those," Gill said. "He's been successful at all levels of baseball, he's coached at all levels of baseball and he's won at all levels of baseball."
To continue that at Richmond, Woodson said recruiting will take center stage as a focus.
"I'm going to hammer this state, I'm going to hammer this city, I'm going to hammer every high school coach. I need their help," he said. Woodson added that he also hopes to bring alumni back into the program, and to get his current players to help recruit by singing the praises of the changes they will see unfolding.
"My expectations are always high," the fiery Woodson said, "and I'm setting them high here."
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