The MLB paths of Rangers manager Chris Woodward and veteran infielder Charlie Culberson seem similar, and their history goes back almost ten years. Culberson and Woodward both played in the Pacific Coast League once Woodward’s playing career ended in 2012. Chris played for the Las Vegas 51s (Blue Jays affiliate) while Charlie split time between the Fresno Grizzlies (Giants affiliate) and the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Rockies affiliate).
“It’s kind of cool because I got to play against him at the end of his career,” Charlie told me. “I remember specifically talking to him one day in Vegas on third base. I remember when he played for the Braves, growing up a Braves fan.”
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Woodward and Culberson united back in Los Angeles for two seasons between 2016 and 2017. Then Charlie landed in Atlanta for the Braves. In 2021, they reunited, and it’s his type of friendship and professionalism that benefits a young organization like the Rangers. “I gravitated towards [Charlie] when we were with the Dodgers together, definitely had some long talks with him there as well as here,” Chris Woodward told me. Woodward was a designated utility man throughout his career, similar to Charlie Culberson, which is beneficial. “He’s approachable,” Culberson told me. “He’s a dude. [Woodward] is a good friend of mine. I call him a friend, but here at the park, [Woodward] is our manager. I respect him and what he has to say and what he does here for our team and the guys. If there’s anything I need, I go to Woody, and he’s got it for me.”
For Culberson, playing time hasn’t always been consistent in his career. His career-high season in games played was 2018, where he appeared in 113 games with the Braves. Charlie has appeared in 100+ games only twice in his nine-year big league career. If he keeps his pace in 2021, he’ll reach about 102 games played, which would reach the third-highest total in his career. But, for Culberson, being a utility guy that doesn’t play every day, it doesn’t bother him. “It’s a mindset,” Charlie told me. “I’ve been a utility guy in my whole career in the big leagues. I think you own it, be ready to play every day. I’ve always taken pride in my game and my work, and my craft. I love the fact that I’m the guy. I’m able to play everywhere.”
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When he was a young player, Charlie was a bit inspired looking at the type of player Woodward was. “I looked up his career, and I was like, I like this guy, how he plays. I like how he thinks,” Culberson told me. “Since then, it’s like hopefully, one day, I can be back with him.”
Now that they’re reunited together, manager Chris Woodward expressed to me that he appreciates Charlie Culberson’s professionalism. He makes sure that Charlie is appreciated. “You’d never know if [Charlie] was an All-Star or the last guy on the roster. He handles himself so well,” Woodward said. “I appreciate what he does and how he does it. He’s trying to figure things out and get better.” It’s the veteran aspect that the organization hopes rubs off on the youth of the club.
Entering 2021, Culberson played 58 games at third base in the majors. However, a bulk of that came in 2014 with the Rockies. “I played third enough to know what it’s like over there,” Charlie told me after asking how he’s adjusted to third base. “I’ve enjoyed being able to get better over there and to learn that position a little more. The more you play, the more comfortable you get. It’s fun; it’s nice to be able to be in the lineup and play baseball.
😳 Charlie Culberson Barehanded Throw pic.twitter.com/4IUksk58jK
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Even watching Culberson pitch, he’s competing at the highest level, and he takes pride in it. “Pitching, I’m not going to lob the ball down the middle. I’m going to try. Our team needs you to throw strikes, and I’ve done it before, so I have fun with it.” In his pitching career, Culberson pitched 4.1 innings and only allowed one run. That lone run came in his first outing in 2018 with the Braves. So yes, Culberson is working on a near four-inning scoreless streak on the mound.
Both Woodward and Culberson even mention how similar they are to one another. Hell, they even have similar facial hair (Culberson does have the curly flow hair in the back). “That’s why we’ve always gotten along,” Woody chuckled to me after asking if he and Charlie are similar. But, unfortunately, Woodward never pitched, and there’s your difference.
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