For the majority of Bourne’s roster, Sunday, June 23‘s doubleheader at Chatham was just another set of baseball games. But, for Braves pitcher JP Woodward, it was a homecoming.
Growing up, Woodward’s grandparents lived in Chatham, where he visited every summer. While there Woodward regularly attended Anglers games.
“A lot of my childhood was spent at this field,” Woodward said. “Chatham’s just one of those places you never forget. It’s an awesome experience; a lot of people come, and it’s got that old-school vibe.”
From the time he could walk, Woodward has been in love with baseball. This love grew from participating in Chatham’s youth clinics and going to dozens of Cape League games every season.
“His grandfather, Amos, worked on the Anglers’ board, and JP always did the clinics,” Woodward’s mother, Erin, said. “He fell in love with baseball while doing those.”
During his time at the clinics, Woodward acquainted himself with some of baseball’s best prospects. One of those was Brian Roberts, who played 14 seasons in the MLB.
When Chatham switched its name from the A’s to the Anglers, it also switched its uniforms. As a result, Woodward received a gift like none he’d ever received: Brian Roberts’ Chatham A’s jersey.
This early experience with an up-and-coming star only increased his affection for the sport.
“I think he brought it with him to the Cape this year,” Erin Woodward said. “It was truly special and one of the most memorable moments of his childhood.”
In spite of his fascination with America’s pastime, Woodward never truly grasped the concept of the Cape Cod Baseball League in his adolescence. To him, it was just kids playing baseball.
Nevertheless, watching the nation’s most prolific college players inspired Woodward to further his pursuit of baseball.
“When I was a kid, I didn’t really understand the significance of it and the caliber of the players here,” JP Woodward said. “But I always wanted to play here.”
As Woodward’s abilities on the mound developed, he and his family encountered a difficult speed bump in late 2016: the passing of his grandfather, Amos Mumford.
Much like his grandson, Mumford was infatuated by the Cape League and the Anglers. For decades, he served as the Chatham’s graphic designer and art director.
Mumford passed away during Woodward’s senior year of high school at Boys Latin School in Baltimore. Because of Mumford’s dedication to the team, there was only one way to commemorate his legacy at Veteran’s Field.
“We spread his ashes on this field,” JP Woodward said.
While wrapping up his high-school career, Woodward possessed one primary goal: play the sport he loves at the next level.
Even though he received zero offers out of high school, Woodward received that chance. Lafayette College offered him a spot on its baseball team as a walk-on.
With no scholarship offers to play baseball, Woodward doubted he’d ever play in the league he grew up admiring.
“I didn’t know if I’d ever be here,” JP Woodward said. “In high school I wasn’t highly recruited or anything like that, so I just focused on playing baseball.”
After his first season with the Leopards—leading Lafayette in ERA— Woodward earned a chance to play summer ball. But it wasn’t the Cape League. Instead, he played with the D.C. Grays of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League in 2018.
In eight appearances for the Grays, Woodward posted a stellar 2.60 ERA with a 2-2 record. This summer was pivotal in enhancing his craft on the mound.
“Ripken was a really good experience my freshman summer,” JP Woodward said. “That was my first experience pitching to wood bats, and it gave me confidence to trust my stuff.”
A year later, Woodward’s production dipped for Lafayette. He recorded a 5.90 ERA in 68.2 innings with a 5-7 record. Even so, Woodward received another summer league invite. This one was from the Northwoods League.
But this didn’t satisfy him. Woodward stayed persistent and tried to break into the Cape Cod Baseball League by any means necessary.
“He had to make a lot of calls,” Erin Woodward said. “He did this by himself and worked for it because he wanted to play in his grandfather’s league.”
After weeks of waiting, Woodward finally got the call he desired. The Bourne Braves wanted him on their staff as a temporary arm.
“Once I got the opportunity to come up here, it was just surreal,” JP Woodward said. “As a kid, I was just here to watch. Now that I’m here, it’s just a flashback, and it’s pretty crazy.”
In the Braves’ third game of the 2019 season—a 10-2 win over Falmouth—Woodward made his first appearance. Coming on in relief duty in the fourth inning, he struggled. Woodward allowed two walks and a hit in just 0.1 innings of work.
After that dismal outing, Woodward wasn’t called upon for the next few days. His next scheduled appearance was a start against Falmouth on June 19.
Mother nature had other plans.
That game, as well as the subsequent three, was postponed. Because manager Harvey Shapiro decided to start Woodward in the next game, regardless of matchup, the first game with fair weather would be Woodward’s.
It just so happened that the next clear day was Bourne’s doubleheader in Chatham.
“Last night, I thought, ‘God works in mysterious ways,’” JP Woodward said. “It makes it all worth having to sit out four days.
“Life has come full circle, and that’s pretty awesome.”
Though JP’s family couldn’t make it to Sunday’s doubleheader, Erin Woodward emphasized the importance of this game.
“It’s pretty emotional,” Erin Woodward said. “Chatham means so much to our family, and it’s amazing that he will get this chance.”
Woodward’s start against the Anglers didn’t go as he hoped. He gave up four earned runs and collected the loss. Even so, Woodward can look back on this game as the fulfillment of a personal dream to return to the place where his love for baseball started.
“I’m so proud of him,” Erin Woodward said. “He’s worked so hard, and he’s going to keep giving it his all with everything he does.”
Carson Field is the Bourne Braves beat writer and is currently studying journalism at Arizona State University.