Chris Woodward doesn’t remember every detail of his first Dodgers game growing up in Covina, Calif., in Los Angeles County. But he does remember he was really little, maybe 5 or 6 years old, and that Fernando Valenzuela was pitching.
“My mom has a picture of it,” Woodward said. “It literally looks identical in this video, but it's a picture of me and my sisters and we're just kind of sitting by the car. We were sitting in the upper deck, you could barely even see the players on the field. At that point, they're just little specks on the ground."
Woodward didn’t even grow up a Dodgers fan, or even an Angels fan across the highway. He was instead a big Cal Ripken Jr. guy and rooted for the Orioles for most of his childhood, despite all of his friends choosing between the two Los Angeles teams. But he still spent a lot of time at both stadiums growing up a fan of the sport.
But not only did Woodward grow up in the area and experience some of his first baseball memories in Los Angeles, he was also the Dodgers third-base coach from 2016-18 before being hired as the Rangers manager in 2019.
The Rangers' three-game series this past weekend was the first time Woodward had been back to Dodger Stadium since Game 5 of the 2018 World Series, when the Red Sox clinched. The two teams met at Globe Life Field in 2020, which was their only matchup since Woodward took over as the Rangers’ manager.
“It was weird [being back in Dodger Stadium],” Woodward said. “It was really weird to be honest. I haven't been on the visiting side in quite a while, so I didn't quite know where I was going. It feels good. Obviously this place has a ton of history, but for me personally, it goes way back to the early days in my youth and my childhood and obviously being here for three years.”
Woodward said there was a bit of closure being able to watch the Dodgers win the World Series at the Rangers’ Globe Life Field in 2020, even if he wasn’t on the staff at that point to celebrate. When he was with the Los Angeles organization, he watched both the Astros and Red Sox clinch World Series titles in Dodger Stadium.
“They deserved it,” Woodward said of the Dodgers. “Those guys have done everything they possibly could to win a championship. It meant a lot, obviously not for me, but for them. They worked really, really hard, and they deserve it, so it was nice to see.”
Woodward said he thinks it means more to him that he grew up in Los Angeles than working there for two years. He gets the same feeling of nostalgia and overall emotions when the Rangers face the Angels in their stadium.
Though the Rangers dropped the series to the Dodgers this past weekend, they snapped a 16-game road losing streak, matching the franchise record set by the 1961 Washington Senators.
Woodward joked all weekend that while he was excited to catch up with some people in the Dodgers organization, he wanted to crush them in each game. He said he had good conversations with some players like Corey Seager and Chris Taylor as well as the coaching staff.
The Rangers did do a little crushing on Saturday night, cruising to a 12-1 victory against reigning Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer with another California native -- Texas starter Kolby Allard -- on the mound, but ultimately dropped the series, 2-1.
“It [being at Dodger Stadium] does mean a lot for me personally, but it isn't about me,” Woodward said before Friday’s series opener. “It's about getting the Texas Rangers to obviously beat the Dodgers. It’s significant, yes, but I'm looking past that it's more about our guys.
“That's good catching up, obviously I’m pretty tight with those guys,” Woodward said. “That was a lot of blood, sweat and tears in that locker room. Obviously they were the enemy this weekend.”