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Balancing forces

Pair of dynamic seniors lead The Master’s College to second straight 30-plus win season

Posted: April 26, 2009 9:18 p.m.
Updated: April 27, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The Master's College pitcher Tim Woodward, left, and right fielder Eric Blackwell having been balancing forces for the Mustangs this season.

 
Eric Blackwell and Tim Woodward may have taken different paths to get to their senior seasons at The Master's College, but they both are focused on one thing - balance.

The Mustangs' ace and top power source at the plate have utilized a balanced approach on the field and in life to become leading forces on the NAIA's 27th ranked baseball team.

"Both Tim and Eric are very steadfast in whatever they do," says The Master's head coach Monte Brooks. "They both are running every race they are in to win, and they never dwell on failure or disappointment when they don't succeed. They put all their effort mentally and physically into winning, and they never sell out."

As seniors, the duo have accepted leadership roles on a club that has already topped 30 wins for the second consecutive season.

Blackwell, who transferred to The Master's from Cal State Dominguez Hills prior to this season, has quickly become the team's main source of dugout pranks, while Woodward provides the team with a calming element thanks to his even keeled approach on the mound.

"I like to mess around and have a good time," Blackwell says. "I get guys with the hot foot or tie their shoes laces together or the old bubble gum on the hat joke. The standard baseball stuff."

Catcher Tyler Diamond, who grew up playing baseball with Blackwell in Simi Valley, sees the right fielder's humor as a way to keep the game fun and the team's mood light.

"He's always joking around and giving guys a hard time to get laughs," says Diamond. "It relaxes everybody and reminds us not to take the game too seriously."

It's not all fun and games for the Mustang slugger. He set the club record for home runs this season, launching 16 thus far.

"Coach Brooks didn't even tell me," Blackwell says. "I hit it, and I came back to the dugout and all the guys were congratulating me, and I was confused. No one had mentioned it before I hit it because they didn't want to jinx me."

The team secret is an example of the camaraderie The Master's have as a group.

The Mustangs are a close-knit group with Woodward and Blackwell serving as two key pieces.

"They are a lot of fun to play with," says Mustangs pitcher Dustin Jones. "Both of those guys aren't the kind of guys that are going to come after you and yell or anything. They are more reserved and encouraging. Woody has been playing here a while so everyone respects him, and the guys all really liked Blackwell from the day they met him."

For Woodward, his senior season has been a fitting culmination to rising above expectations.

As a freshman he walked on at Glendale Community College, and as a sophomore he walked on at The Master's.

Both times he made the team, and he has developed into a legitimate ace for the Mustangs, tallying a team high nine wins and an ERA of 2.70.

"I always wanted to start, but I was in the bullpen my sophomore year," Woodward says. "I got the chance to move into the rotation junior year when a spot opened up, and I seized the opportunity. It was like I found the role I was looking for."

On game days, Woodward finds another gear and locks in on the game. Almost no one talks to him on the afternoons he takes the mound until after his pitching day is done.

"I get to talk to him because I'm his catcher, but he's definitely very focused," Blackwell says. "He's a quiet leader usually, but when he's pitching, he's very locked in."

Part of maintaining balance for Woodward and Blackwell means focusing just as hard in the classroom as they do in the gym or on the diamond.

Blackwell is majoring in religious studies, and Woodward is set to get his degree in independent studies next month.

Still, both are hopeful that their next career step will still be on the baseball field.

"It would be a great opportunity if I was to get drafted to play professionally," Woodward says. "I'm not sure what the future might bring me, but I know whatever happens next for me will work out because this school has given me a foundation that will allow me to succeed. Being here has been a blessing."

Blackwell also feels fortunate to have spent time at The Master's, and he has used the season as a learning experience.

"It has been an amazing season," Blackwell says. "I have never been around such a great group of guys. I used to only care about winning, but playing on a team like this has shown me that it isn't just about winning. It is how you go about playing the game and act on and off the field."

The change in his philosophy of how to play the game is all part of the balance Blackwell and Woodward focus upon.

"There is a definitely balance in knowing how to be dedicated, but also in knowing how to have fun on the field," Brooks says. "We like to use the phrase, ‘effort and effortless,' which is to be relaxed and focused at the same time. Both of these guys put that ability on display, and that's why they are successful."

The personal success and accolades that have come to Blackwell and Woodward have vindicated the pair's hard work at The Master's, but their main goals revolve around the team.

Blackwell feels the Mustangs may have the combination to take home the NAIA title this season.

"I know we could win the World Series," Blackwell says.
"If we play well in our conference tournament and get in, then I have no doubt that we will win it all."

It is a lofty goal, but with an even approach and a balanced attack, Woodward and Blackwell know that they can achieve every goal they set in front of themselves.

"They are awesome teammates," Diamond says. "Eric is the kind of guy that would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it, and Tim brings an intensity and a level of domination that makes this team believe that anything is possible."


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