Stephen Woods Jr. has visited Arizona one time in his life. He was 6 and went to watch his dad pitch in the Men’s Senior Baseball League World Series in Scottsdale.
“Arizona was awesome and everyone there was like a big- leaguer to me,” he said, laughing. “It left such a huge impression on me growing up around baseball. And my dream was always to be a major-leaguer.”
Woods reached a milestone toward that goal on Friday when the Giants, whose rookie league team plays in Scottsdale, chose the righthanded pitcher in the eighth round of Major League Baseball’s amateur draft.
“I can’t wait to go back to Arizona,” Woods said. “Isn’t this what every Little League kid dreams about? They dream about hearing their name called on draft day.”
Woods had heard his name called before, when the Rays chose him out of Half Hollow Hills East High School in the sixth round in 2013.
He rolled the dice three years ago and turned down their offer, choosing to attend SUNY Albany. He said he intends to forego his senior year at Albany and sign with San Francisco.
The hard-throwing 6-2, 200-pound righthander said his home in Dix Hills was filled with family and relatives visiting from California, and that during the televised draft, it was getting increasingly difficult to handle the pressure with every name called.
“We had dogs barking, my little baby cousin Margo crying and people were talking and it was so noisy,” said Woods, also celebrating his 21st birthday. “My best friend Luke Stampfl was on the speakerphone from Portland. He knew there was interest. We’d talked to the Pirates and the Giants, and the Giants’ pick was coming up.”
The house went silent. When Woods’ name was announced, there was bedlam.
“When you hear your name called, there’s an emotional surge that’s incredible,” he said. “It’s a fantastic relief. You can take a breath.”
Stephen Woods Sr. almost was overwhelmed going through the process again, having experienced the Rays’ pick in 2013.
“The waiting is awful, especially the second time around,” he said. “The Pirates called about the seventh round and the Giants called about the eighth round to see what it would take for us to sign. The Pirates’ offer was under slot, so we said no.”
So the family waited another half-hour for the Giants’ pick, and the tension grew.
“My wife [Maggie] and my daughter [Sabrina] both looked at me and said take the Pirates’ offer,” Stephen Sr. said. “And I said there’s a better opportunity out there.”
When Stephen Woods Jr. was selected at 4:35 p.m., he embraced his mother and got a kiss from girlfriend Alana Brennan.
It was the best birthday ever.
Justin Dunn (Freeport, Boston College), RHP by Mets
Anthony Kay (Ward Melville H.S./UConn), LHP by Mets
Thomas Hackimer (St. John’s), RHP by Twins
Stephen Woods (Dix Hills/Albany), RHP by Giants
Greg Weissert (Bay Shore/ Fordham University), RHP, by Yankees
Kyle Young (Syosset/St. Dominic H.S.) LHP, by Phillies
Matt Vogel (Medford/South Carolina), RHP by Rays
Michael O’Reilly (Wading River/Flagler College, RHP by Cardinals
Matt Crohan (Jamesport/Winthrop U.), LHP by Reds
Toby Handley (Stony Brook U), OF by Astros
Jonathan Mulford (Massapequa/Adelphi), RHP by Cardinals
Rob Galligan (Muttontown/Maryland), LHP by Diamondbacks
Tyler Honahan (Stony Brook U.), LHP by Yankees