By Dennis Garcia
Alsander Womack certainly had the perfect mentor to learn the sport of baseball from as he grew up in the Waxhaw area. It's not everyone who can go to a World Series hero for advice or to answer questions as he worked his way up the baseball ladder,
Womack's father is Tony Womack, the 13-year MLB veteran whose key hits led the Arizona Diamondbacks to the 2001 World Series championship. Womack ended the first-round playoff series with a walk-off single and then set up Luis Gonzalez' famous game-winning single in Game 7 of the World Series with a game-tying, one-out hit against the Yankees' Mariana Rivera. Womack's game-tying double was cited by the Wall Street Journal as the most significant clutch hit in baseball history.
"It's always a blessing to have someone to talk to about this game and break it down to a further level than normal," Womack said about his father, who played for the Diamondbacks, Pirates, Cardinals, Yankees, Reds and Cubs. "We talk about what he is expecting from me and what I should be expecting from myself. I learned about myself as a player."
The younger Womack, a 5-9, 210-pound infielder from Norfolk State University, is making his own mark in baseball. Womack, who was named one of the top 100 hitters in all of college baseball by D1baseball.com earlier this month, will be playing for the Asheboro Copperheads this summer once the Coastal Plain League season begins. Womack was a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American after his first season at NSU and a member of the First-Team All-MEAC squad after his sophomore year. He was projected to be the MEAC player of the year this season before the coronavirus ended the collegiate baseball season.
"The game speed was probably the hardest thing to get used to year to year," said Womack, who said he chose Norfolk State because of a coaching staff that made him feel comfortable and could help him reach his professional dream. "As we played guys from teams in the ACC and SEC, the speed is very different. But I have had a lot of guys to help, guys who have been there before."
He adjusted very well, earning a huge honor given by D1baseball.com. last month. That organization determined the top hitters in college baseball based on a full season of 2019 statistics and stats from the first four weeks of 2020. To qualify, a hitter must have had a minimum of 150 plate appearances in 2019 and 35 in 2020.
The list was compiled by using a computer algorithm which breaks down hitting into three categories: plate discipline, hit ability and game power, and they are then combined and calculated for an analytics score. The rankings are computed with an adjustment to account for park effects of the most extreme hitter and pitcher-friendly parks as well as an adjustment for a team's strength of schedule. Womack is ranked No. 91 on the list. He was batting .284 with five doubles and seven runs batted in when the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He struck out just twice in 67 at-bats.
Tony Womack was also a solid MLB hitter and the two recently were able to enjoy the 2001 World Series when a station rebroadcast the entire World Series, considered by many to be one of the most exciting postseason series in baseball history.
"Way too many to count," Womack joked about how many times his father nudged him in the shoulder or slapped him on the back while watching the games. "It felt like he was watching a live game and he didn't know what was about to happen."
Last season, Womack, from Charlotte Catholic High School, was a first-team All-MEAC selection after batting .377 with three homers, 10 doubles and 31 runs batted in. He finished the season ranked 28th nationally in hits per game (1.5), 31st in average and 54th in toughest to strikeout (16 in 167 at-bats). He walked 19 times and fanned just 16 in nearly 190 official at-bats. Womack was named to the NSU Athletics Director's Honor Roll for both semesters and was a member of the MEAC Commissioner's All-Academic Team.
In his first year at NSU, Womack was a four-time MEAC Rookie of the Week selection, tied for the most among conference players. He batted .314 with 13 doubles, two triples, five homers, a team-high 31 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. He posted 15 multi-hit games, tops on the team and he was named to the NSU AD's Honor Roll for both semesters
"That came from my parents," Womack said of his ability to shine in the classroom as well as on the baseball field. "They both instilled education first and they always got on me about my grades."
After his freshman season, Womack played summer ball for the Kernersville Bulldogs of the Carolina-Virginia Collegiate League. He was an all-star that summer.
After a standout sophomore campaign, he entered his junior season ready to challenge for a MEAC championship. The Spartans were one out away from claiming the title last season before Florida A&M rallied to win the title by claiming the final two games of the tournament.
"I came into my junior year looking for revenge, trying to get the championship we lost, but should have won, last year," Womack said. "I was going to play in Charlottesville (in the Valley League) and that got canceled so it was like what to do now?"
In stepped the Copperheads.
"We are excited to add Alsander to our ball club," Asheboro head coach and General Manager Keith Ritsche said. "In his first few years at Norfolk State, he has put up some impressive numbers. He can get on base a lot and doesn't strikeout much. This is key in any league really, but especially in a wooden bat league where kids are still learning to hit elite arms. We are adding someone with great knowledge of the game of baseball with him growing up in such an elite baseball family."
Womack said he is looking forward to putting on a Copperheads jersey.
"I want to stay healthy, get better every day on and off the field and enjoy my time playing the game," Womack said about this summer. "I want to play my best."
He certainly has been doing just that.
Womack brings rich baseball family history to Copperheads
By Dennis Garcia