HALF HOLLOW HILLS
From T-Bird To Ray: Tampa Picks
Hills East senior selected in sixth
round of MLB draft
By Jacqueline Birzon/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Three days shy of his 18th birthday, Half Hollow Hills
High School East senior Stephen Woods got a call that made his heart drop
to the floor. A representative from Major League Baseball was on the line
to inform him thatd hed just been drafted to play for Tampa
Woods, the starting pitcher this year for the Hills East baseball team,
was the first high-school level player selected from Long Island in the
sixth of the 30-plus round draft, and was chosen 188th overall.
Watching the June 7 draft from his computer, Woods didnt know which
team would pick him.
I was honored to accept
My heart was just going nuts when
they called my name, he said. My heart just dropped and sunk
into the seat.
Woods, who was offered an athletic scholarship from the State University
of New York at Albany, must decide in the next week if he will commit
to the Florida organization. The soon-to-be high school graduate verbally
accepted the Rays offer on Friday, and said on Monday that an official
commitment will likely come by the end of the week.
Im just really happy that I can start my dream quicker than
I expected to, he said. Its nuts. There are kids [in
college] with so much more experience under their belt, but I got picked
[before them], he said.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Woods throws a 94 mph pitch. He was 5-1 on the
mound, had over 100 strikeouts in over 50 innings, and had an earned run
average of 0.63, Hills East head varsity baseball coach Tim Belz said.
This year, Woods pitched two no-hitters and three one-hitters, was an
All-County player, was awarded Pitcher of the Year in League III, and
is nominated for Pitcher of the Year in the county, which has not yet
Belz, who has coached at Half Hollow Hills for eight years, said dozens
of scouts attended games this season to see Woods, whom he described as
one of the hardest workers hes ever seen.
I knew he had that potential; every year hes gotten better.
He got really strong and really refined his skills, Belz said. He
really worked on his command of his pitching and hes probably one
of the hardest workers Ive had in my coaching career.
Belz said that every year, from sophomore to senior year, Woods increased
the speed on his pitches by several miles per hour. The coach noted his
players natural ability to throw a fastball and a curveball..
However, Woods said he wasnt always a pitching prodigy. He started
playing baseball with his father, Stephen Sr., at the age of 5. Woods
said that his father, who played baseball in college and turned down a
draft offer from the Yankees, has been his biggest supporter when it comes
to playing Americas favorite pastime.
Having a father whos also done very well in the sport, hes
just always been there for me, so its always kept me going to achieve
more and more, Woods said. When I wasnt the best player
at all in Little League, my dad always told me Ill have my moment
Should he accept the MLB offer, Woods will begin training with the Rays
in Florida at the end of the month.
God gave me a chance and I took it. I refined my skills and just
helped build myself and my body to work with it, Woods said. Its
kind of cheesy, but I play for the love of the game. You have your ups
and downs, but its one of the most humble games out there, and its
not the easiest
They had faith in me, and I know what I have to do
to live up to that dream.
Half Hollow Hills Easts Stephen Woods was
drafted to pitch for the Tampa Bay Rays in the MLBs first-year
player draft last Friday.