Head Coach Mark Woodworth ’94 has led the way for the Cardinals for 14 seasons. He currently reigns as the 2014 NESCAC Coach of the Year, for a season in which the team set a wins record, a fielding percentage record, and posted the second-best team ERA in school history.
Running a program that has had just three head coaches since the start of World War II and this year celebrates its 150th season, Woodworth knows about tradition. He captained the 1994 team that became the first Wes squad to make the national tournament, and has led the current senior class to unparalleled success for a Wes team: two straight Little Three titles, two straight NESCAC West titles, and the team’s first NCAA bid in 20 years.
Woodworth and the Argus discussed past successes and future challenges for the Wesleyan Nine.
The Argus: Wesleyan baseball is coming off a historic season, and you’re returning all of your top players, so I imagine you have high expectations for the team. What do you identify as your biggest strengths entering the season?
Mark Woodworth: As we begin the season, the most exciting aspect is the energy that the guys have been bringing since the day our season ended last year. Being part of an amazing team is one of the great experiences, and it inspires [us] to want it more. Our strength is that energy and our single-minded focus on experiencing that greatness again.
A: Where has the team set its goals entering the season?
MW: The goal of this team is to be focused in the moment, one single pitch at a time, over and over, for the approximately 12,000 pitches we will see this year. The goal of that mission is to be the last team playing in the nation; that would mean winning the Division III World Series.
A: With so many players playing summer ball last year, some of them in the Cape League, where did you see the biggest improvement coming in from the offseason?
MW: With all the amazing experiences on the field in the spring and the summer over the last year, the biggest improvement has been that all of the guys have taken their leadership to another level. We embrace the notion that every single player has to be a leader, and bring great leadership in their own way, as opposed to just one or two or three people being leaders and the rest following.
Everyone has been doing their part to give themselves to the team, both through bettering themselves individually, and helping their teammates get better. This is a transcendent notion that is a key element of excellence in the present and the future.
A: Who do you expect to surprise us going into the season?
MW: With the graduation of three standout pitchers, I think the surprise will be that we have some outstanding pitchers who didn’t pitch much last year, but are primed to step right in. Asher Young ’17, Ethan Rode ’17, Nick Miceli ’17, Wilson Flower ’17, and Peter Rantz ’17 are poised for outstanding success.
A: What’s the significance to you of having the 150th anniversary season this year?
MW: The year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of Wesleyan baseball is an amazing and special thing, and I know the guys appreciate being part of something bigger than themselves. For me, as an alum of Wesleyan baseball and having the fortune to experience this tradition, I am thrilled that all the great people who have given and received so much from being part of this will get to share in this.
A: What has Donnie Cimino ’15 brought to the captaincy this year?
MW: Donnie has earned one of the most amazing honors in the history of Wesleyan Athletics in being elected a four-time captain, twice in both football and baseball. It is much deserved, and when an outstanding player and leader has great focus and work ethic and commitment to himself and his teammates, it is no coincidence that the teams he has been on have been so successful.
A: What importance do you prescribe to early season matchups against top-ten teams like Cal Lutheran and Linfield?
MW: Being able to compete against great opponents is an honor and inspires the best out of a person and a team. With that in mind, we have scheduled some of the top opponents in the country this season, and that will certainly help us in our quest for excellence.