By Cuyler Meade
Colby Woodmansee has a bright future.
The Arizona State standout is popping up on lists of the best collegiate shortstops in the country, and for a junior hitting .364 with three homers and a team-leading 11 doubles, that’s going to mean chances at the next level.
— Sun Devil Baseball (@ASU_Baseball) March 21, 2016
But, while he’s excited about what’s coming, Woodmansee has learned early how important it is not to focus on what’s next.
“I say to myself every day these days are going by quick so I might as well enjoy them,” Woodmansee told Sports360az.com.
The Desert Vista High product captured early a concept that so many never come to understand: joy is in the journey.
“I wasn’t much of a guy who played in those big tournaments (in high school),” Woodmansee said. “I kind of took my time off away from baseball, so I wouldn’t say I played against the highest competition in high school, whether it was summer ball or whatever.
“I just played with my high school guys and buddies just playing baseball and having fun. I knew once high school was over it was going to start getting serious and I was just like I’m going to have fun while I’m here.”
In an increasingly frenetic youth sports landscape, Woodmansee managed to excel despite not saturating his life with baseball as much as he possibly could.
Maybe it was the lack of top-level competition as a teenager (though Woodmansee achieved essentially every honor possible while playing at Desert Vista), but Woodmansee’s transition to college ball wasn’t as smooth as it could have been.
He hit .200 his freshman season in 24 starts. Not exactly crushing it. But Woodmansee has no regrets. He took it in stride, found a way to improve, and moved forward.
But it wasn’t through changing his philosophy on life that he turned things around.
“I went in there just trying to figure things out on my own, just trying different things whether it’s stance, mentality, thinking about different stuff in the box,”
Woodmansee said of the summer after his freshman year. “Then after the summer coming back here with a new coaching staff, their approach to hitting, it just meshed together and it kind of clicked then.”
Clicked is right. Woodmansee finished his sophomore season hitting .308 and made the all-Pac-12 first team, starting every game of the season at shortstop.
But as the future grows brighter, Woodmansee is quick to look behind him.
“I would put a lot of emphasis on ‘Coach Luke’ there, Stan Luketich,” Woodmansee said. “He’s probably, other than my dad, the biggest influence on me growing up and playing baseball. He’s just big on not only making you a better baseball player but making you a better man.”
Woodmansee said Luketich comes to a lot of his games at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, and that he returns the favor as much as he can, returning to Desert Vista regularly to watch games and interact with the players.
He said he sees the next Colby Woodmansee coming up quickly with the Thunder.
“I actually do,” he said. “I went out to their game and I really like their second baseman. Brock Burton. I see a lot of myself in him, a little quiet kid, but he’s got a nice swing and I think he’s a pretty good player.”
Woodmansee gets the chance to talk to the Desert Vista players and give them advice. It’s not surprising what he tells them.
“I tell them have fun,” Woodmansee said. “After this it gets serious. Obviously you still want to have fun out here, but it becomes a serious mentality and a more professional-type outlook. I tell them have fun. Don’t look forward to playing in the future. You’re having a great time here. I wish I could have these days back.”
Woodmansee said he stays grounded in spite of the increasing attention he receives in part because of his relationship with his roommate, ASU catcher Brian Serven, who’s also popping up on big-time lists around the country.
“For me and Brian it’s a little competition too,” Woodmansee said. “We don’t think about, ‘can I do better than this other kid in the country,’ it’s me and him. And I think that helps us keep grounded and not think about it.”
More than anything, Woodmansee wants to stay focused on the present. He’s learned from experience.
“Once these days are over, I’m going to be like, I wish I could go back to ASU,” Woodmansee said. “The way I say now I wish I could go back to Desert Vista.”