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College : : Story
Nate Woods cleaning up for Belmont
Jim Ecker        
Published: Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Nate Woods cleaned bathrooms, wiped smudges off glass display cases and performed other odd jobs when he worked at Perfect Game headquarters in high school. The next time he visits, we’ll have to roll out the red carpet.

Woods, now a junior at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., has developed into one of the top sluggers in the country this season with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs. He ranks second in the country in both categories, according to the latest NCAA statistics for Division I players.

A.J. Kirby-Jones of Tennessee Tech leads all D-I players with 14 homers, and Jake Overstreet of South Alabama leads the country with 51 RBIs. That means Woods, 21, is just a two-run homer away from the top.

“It feels great,” said Woods, who’s hitting a robust .366. “I’m glad I can produce for my team like that.”

Woods soared toward the top of the national charts this past Friday when he socked four homers and drove in 10 runs during an Atlantic Sun Conference double-header against Kennesaw State. “I could have done better,” he told family members.

That modest attitude does not surprise anyone who knows him.

“Great guy,” said Belmont Coach Dave Jarvis. “He’s an outstanding young man.”

Woods hit six homers as a freshman at Belmont in 2008, but he played in only nine games last year due to a foot injury and hit only one homer. Now he’s clearing fences at a prolific rate as the cleanup hitter for the Bruins.

“It’s phenomenal. He’s done a great job,” Jarvis said. “I’m not shocked by it, because I know what he’s capable of doing. He has some awfully quick hands.”

Woods, 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, hit 12 home runs as a senior at Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids (Iowa) in 2007. He was drafted in the 28th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers that year, but decided to enroll in college. He’s draft-eligible again this year and might be tempted to sign, depending on the details.

“Definitely,” he said. “That’s always been my dream, to play in the major leagues.”

Pro scouts are paying attention.

“They do have interest in him,” Jarvis said. “I do see Nate having the opportunity of playing at the next level.”

Woods comes from a baseball family. His grandfather, Ken Charipar, played in the minor leagues and was an assistant coach at the University of Iowa. Nate’s father, Curt Woods, played at Iowa State. And one of Nate’s uncles, Mike Boddicker, pitched in the big leagues.

“I’ve had great coaching all along the way,” he acknowledged.

Woods bats in the No.4 hole and plays first base at Belmont. He’s also considered the No.1 pitcher, although he’s struggled this season with a 2-3 record and 9.09 ERA. Needless to say, he hits for himself when he pitches.

Woods strained a ligament in his right foot last season and was lost for the year. Doctors inserted a screw to promote healing, but the whole process took more than six months and cost him valuable time on the mound. It hasn’t affected his swing, however. The power numbers are astounding, considering Belmont had played only 29 games heading into Tuesday night’s game at Vanderbilt, with at least 25 games to play.

“Where is the power coming from? I don’t know,” Woods said. “I guess I’m putting better swings on the ball. Heck, when I get up, there always seem to be guys on.”
Woods has always loved the game. When he wasn’t working at Perfect Game headquarters in Cedar Rapids, he was working out in the building.

“I lived there, basically,” he said. “I was there all the time.”

Jason Stein, now the head coach at Eastern Kentucky and formerly an assistant at Belmont, watched Woods play in a Perfect Game event in high school and liked what he saw. Belmont made an attractive offer, Woods accepted and both parties are happy.

“Can you send us two or three more just like him?,’’ asked Jarvis.