By Tim Chambers
It was a banner season for the Little League Marlins and their head coach should get some much deserved credit. Gary Woodard led his team though the season undefeated after defeating the Dodgers in the tournament championship game on Tuesday.
Woodard has been involved in the league for nine years with five coming in the majors.
He also runs his own business and takes an active role in his church at State Line Baptist. He’s a Christian role model for all the kids and parents to be around.
“I just enjoy being around the kids and trying to help them get better,” said Woodard. “It’s been a special season so far. The kids have worked extremely hard and all of them are fun to coach and be around.”
Woodard’s words were a bit modest for a team who has reeled off 13 consecutive victories.
“The good Lord has blessed us with no injuries and things have gone in our favor,” added Woodard. “We’ve had some close games but the kids have just pulled together. It’s been a wonderful year and these kids deserve the credit. They’re dedicated because we practice hard. It’s just been a very special 15 games.”
Special seasons for special teams comes because of special players.
The Marlins have the most special one in Zack Parsons, who led the league in about every category.
“Zack is a very unique player,” said Woodard. “He’s diversified and can play anywhere. You can put him anywhere on the field and he’s happy. He loves to play baseball and the kids look up to him as our team leader. He’s a wonderful young man to coach.”
Woodard acknowledges that every player on the team had done something to help them stay undefeated.
“Conner Stout has come alive this year as our shortstop. He can cover some ground. Tanner Putnam has pitched so well and got us out of some tight squeezes. He too is one of those guys that our kids look up to.
Putnam is the team’s second ace pitcher and second leading hitter. But the cast is much more than this trio.
Donnie Curd has been a standout backstop according to Woodard.
“It’s his second year as a player and he’s been a wall back there. Catching Zack is not an easy thing to do and he does that well. Jordan James has turned into a really good player despite this being his first year. He’s definitely been a real good find.”
James was 2-2 with an inside-the-park homerun versus the Dodgers in the championship game.
Woodard praised another trio of players including Daniel Stout, Hank Sauer and Leland Morley.
Daniel is an 11-year-old that has done several good things for us including pitching,” said Woodard. “Leland and Hank are 10-year-old players who keep getting better every game. They too can pitch and will be counted on next season.”
Woodard singled out the play of first year player Dominic Kelly.
“He’s been a great find at centerfield and he hasn’t played since tee-ball. He’s gotten several big hits for us. Kainen Hamm and Connor Gentry have stepped up recently despite this being their first year. We’ve got three on the team who haven’t played since tee-ball. We’ve got some older players but we’ve also got a lot that haven’t played much either.”
Woodard praised his assistant coaches, Adam Sauer, Jody Putnam, Bobby Stout and Anthony Hall.
“Adam, Jody and Bobby all have been tremendous,” said Woodard. “Anthony has been a big help at practices and games when he can be here.”
Woodard is looking forward to coaching the 11-12-year-old All-Star team especially with Parsons and Putnam leading the way.
“We tried to set our pitching to where we would have everyone available during the regular season” said Woodard. “We got some good arms on our All-Star team. Coaching this bunch makes the season even that more special. I hope we all can make Johnson County proud.”