Baseball is a unique sport in that injured players usually go on rehab assignments in the minor leagues prior to returning to their MLB club. No matter if it’s a fringe roster player or a two-time All-Star like Brandon Woodruff, the player will more often than not play a few games in the lower levels to get back up to speed.
Woodruff returned to his minor-league roots last week with a rehab start for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the Milwaukee Brewers' High-A affiliate. He spoke about that outing and experience on the latest episode of Brewers Unfiltered.
“Going back and pitching (Thursday) night, I’m thinking to myself when these kids are chanting my name when I’m out there warming up, ‘You know what, this is cool. These people came out to the game when they heard I was pitching and it was sold out and it was really cool,’” Woodruff said (31:58 in player above).
A Minor League baseball game is a different experience than the big leagues, for the fans and the players. Woodruff embraced that on Thursday night.
“I’ve never given kids high-fives before the game. When I’m going out to pitch, my job is to go get people out. I’m trying to be focused,” he said. “It was a little bit out of my comfort zone to go there and give these kids high-fives along the fence and I think that was a good thing. I look back on it (Thursday) night like, ‘That was a cool experience. Probably made some kid's day.’
“The other thing that threw me off a bit: we did the anthem like three minutes before the game. You run out to your position and you do the anthem –– I haven’t done that since high school.”
It’s safe to say that Woodruff made at least one kid’s day given his thoughtful gesture on the mound.
“You go out there and the two kids run up that are with me during the anthem and they kind of look at me and I say ‘Hey guys, how are y’all?’ I said ‘What’s your name?’ and they told me their names. And I said ‘I’m Brandon’ and they’re like ‘uh, yeah, we know.’”
Only one of the two kids had a ball on the mound with them, so Woodruff gave the other the game ball. “His face lit up. And I think I saw a picture where I was looking down smiling at the kid, and he just couldn’t believe it, his eyes were so big.
“These kids look up to us more than we realize. I think we don’t realize it as much around the community of how influential we can be,” Woodruff said. “That was a cool thing to go back and do (Thursday) night.”
Woodruff is slated to return from the injured list and make his first start since May 27th on Tuesday night in Tampa Bay.