The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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August 9, 2013

Miners’ Woods talented on the mound and on golf course

BECKLEY — Players have come and gone in the West Virginia Miners’ first four seasons, and many have left their marks.

James Woods is certainly among them, what with his submarine delivery. Major League Baseball has had its share of submariners, from Kent Tekulve to Gene Garber to Dan Quisenberry. UCLA recently won its first-ever College World Series thanks in big part to closer David Berg, whose delivery was so low it looked like his knuckles were dragging the mound.

They, however, were all right-handers. Woods is left-handed, a rarity for a submariner.

But Woods’ imprint has been made at places other than Linda K. Epling Stadium, where he is one of the Miners’ strong options out of the bullpen. It seems Woods is also a talented golfer, and he has proven so throughout the summer.

Woods recently shot a 64 while playing with the men’s group at Grandview Country Club.

“That could be a once-in-a-lifetime round,” the Radford, Va., resident said. “It was definitely fun shooting that. I made a lot of putts. It was awesome to shoot something like that.”

Not only did Woods torch the par-70, 6,758-yard course, he also came agonizingly close to a hole-in-one.

“I’ve come within inches of a hole-in-one,” he said. “I have yet to have a hole-in-one in my career, but I’ve come close.”

Woods’ golf dominance has not been limited to Grandview. At the West Virginia Miners Golf Tournament on July 29, he and his father, Jeff, were part of Team Valley Turf that shot a 19-under on the Cobb Course at The Resort at Glade Springs.

“We (he and his dad) had a good time in that tournament,” Woods said. “I don’t know how long he has played, but he was definitely a big influence on me in golf, for sure.”

Woods took up the sport when he was 9, but got serious about it when he was in high school.

“I won a few tournaments here and there,” Woods said Wednesday after the Miners’ 3-0 win over Chillicothe that won the Prospect League East Division championship. “But I really enjoy playing on my days off. It’s another passion of mine. Great second sport.”

Second sport — meaning baseball is his first. And that submarine delivery has meant increased playing time.

He played last summer for the Covington (Va.) Lumberjacks in the Valley League, but wasn’t seeing as many innings as he wanted.

“(I was) kind of frustrated,” he admitted. “But I ended up throwing over the top and submarine everyday before the game and just developed a submarine (delivery) that way.”

When he got back to Radford University, the Highlanders coaching staff took a Missouri approach to Woods’ new delivery — he had to show them.

“I got to school and told my coaches and they didn’t really think much of it, until one day they asked to see it,” Woods said. “From then on I have stayed submarine.”

The Miners have benefited from Woods’ new approach. In 16 appearances this summer, Woods is 1-0 with five saves and a 0.83 earned run average. He has 17 strikeouts and just six walks in 21 2-3 innings.

“I really adapted well and got a feel for it pretty quick,” Woods said. “It’s become really effective for me, definitely — more effective than I was over the top. It’s gotten me on the mound a lot more.”

Woods will be a senior at Radford next spring, closing out his baseball career. But he has had his ear bent a little that he might have one year of eligibility to play golf. He isn’t sure if that’s the case, but would be open to it.

“I don’t know if eligibility will let me do that,” he said, “but if that’s an option I definitely would like to try it.”

For now, he’ll stick to one more week of baseball with the Miners, and would love to get in some more golf before he returns home.

“I always give (Miners manager) Tim (Epling) a hard time,” Woods said. “I always try to get him to bring me out to Glade Springs and play, but he hasn’t done it yet. I think he’s a little scared.”

Epling at least talks a big game.

“He’s really good — but he’s not as good as Coach yet,” Epling said. “He can’t beat me yet. When he beats me, then he’ll have bragging rights.”

Woods laughed when told of Epling’s comments.

“Oh, yeah. Yeah. We’ll see about that,” Woods said. “I think he’s too scared to play me.”

Sounds like a challenge Epling might not want to accept.

-----

The Miners will leave today for Quincy, Ill., to take on the West Division champion Gems in the first game of the Prospect League Championship Series.

Game 2 of the series will be played at Beckley's Linda K. Epling Stadium at 7:05 p.m. Monday. All tickets to the game are $5, regardless of seating. All fans 12 and under get in free.

Tickets can be ordered by calling the Miners at 304-252-7233, or online at http://www.wvminersbaseball.com/.

— E-mail: gfauber@register-herald.com

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