There’s truly no precedent for what occurred Wednesday during a Texas junior college baseball game, as Owen Woodward, a pitcher for Weatherford College, came charging off the mound after giving up a go-ahead home run and speared the longball hitter to the ground as he rounded third base. I can’t remember another time a home-run trot was interrupted by a pitcher wanting to fight the batter who just took him deep.
The action against Woodward was quick from the Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference, with a four-game suspension. Weatherford College head coach Jeff Lightfoot was even more decisive, dismissing Woodward from the program. Turns out Woodward’s pitch giving up the home run that led to the brawl was his final one for the Coyotes.
The batter, North Central Texas College’s Josh Phillips, was suspended two games after his ejection for taunting, allegedly saying “fuck you” to Woodward, which instigated the attack. Phillips was also warned earlier in the game by the umpires for exchanging words with another Weatherford pitcher.
The conference also handed out two-game suspensions to any player or assistant coach who left their position on the field or the dugout to create the mass confrontation. That means the entire North Central team except for two players will be forced to sit out two games. Four other Weatherford players were suspended as well.
Woodward’s idiotic charge and tackle of Phillips may cost him more than a junior-college roster spot. He’s a reliever who leads the Coyotes with four saves on the season. His form in JUCO had earned him a chance to play at the Division-I level, as he’s a Houston signee. A report from the Houston Chronicle said Cougars coach Todd Whitting is “monitoring the situation.” Second chances are deserved from those who pay the proper retribution. Assaulting someone on the infield needs more than a promise to learn from your mistakes post on social media.
The game between Weatherford and North Central was the opening contest of a four-game series. The conference ruled that the first game, which was stopped after the fight, would be ruled a forfeit for both teams. North Central must forfeit the next two games due to having two available players. The final game of the series will be played Saturday.
A statement from Weatherford on Wednesday read that Woodward would face potential disciplinary action from the college, including possible expulsion. In the release stating Woodward’s dismissal, Weatherford didn’t expound on that action. Weatherford doesn’t have an online student directory, but Woodward is no longer listed on the Coyote’s online roster. The Weatherford College Police Department is also investigating. Woodward’s social media accounts are set to private.
The conference’s original four-game suspension against Woodward would’ve been a solid move for a normal mound-charge after intentionally hitting a batter. Being the aggressor after mere trash-talk makes this situation worse where he’ll be lucky to suit up for Houston. That kind of energy is exactly what college coaches want gone from their locker rooms. I can’t see Whitting, regardless of any relationship built through recruiting Woodward, decide to openly welcome him into the Cougars’ fold.
Although Phillips isn’t exactly innocent in this situation either, forgiving cuss words is a million times easier. Weatherford did the absolute right thing by removing Woodward from the team less than 48 hours after the incident. Any black eye the fight had on the Coyotes is lessened due to the swift penalty. The tape doesn’t lie. What Woodward did is assault, regardless of wearing a baseball cap and jersey. And it’s disgusting.