Loyola graduate Danny Woodrow (Class of 2013) is one step closer to becoming a Major League Baseball player.

An outfielder in the Detroit Tigers organization, the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Woodrow was invited to participate in the Arizona Fall League, a collection of six teams that feature some of baseball’s top prospects. Founded in 1992, nearly 60 percent of former AFL players have made it to the majors, producing 25 Rookies of the Year, 12 MVPs and four Cy Young Award winners.

Woodrow will play for the Mesa Solar Sox, which is comprised of players from the Cubs, Angels, Athletics, Red Sox and Tigers. They start the season Tuesday.

It’s a situation Woodrow, a 23-year-old Wilmette native and product of Wilmette Junior High School, never imagined he would be in while playing for the Ramblers.

“I was definitely not thinking about pro baseball in high school,” he said. “I wanted to play in college, but I had a hard time getting interest. Some schools didn’t want anything to do with me.”

With the help of Loyola head coach Nick Bridich, who was hired in 2012, Woodrow went on to play at Creighton University, a Division I program, before getting drafted by the Tigers in the 12th round in 2016.

This past season Woodrow played for the Double-A Erie Seawolves and was an Eastern League All-Star selection. In 92 games, he hit .313 with an OPS of .764. He had three home runs and 37 RBIs and stole 19 bases. Woodrow started at least 15 games in each of the three outfield positions.

“When I first saw him in open gyms, I saw an athlete with all of the tools to play at a high level,” Bridich said. “He looked like a guy who knew what he was doing to be successful. I knew before Danny that he’d get a chance to play pro baseball.”

Several of Woodrow’s strengths, according to Bridich, aren’t quantifiable.

“He’s very high-energy player who’s unbelievably competitive,” Bridich said. “He leads by example. He’s also very smart, and he’s smart enough to not overthink the game. These are reasons why Danny’s been someone who has beaten out guys every year who maybe have more talent.”

Despite going from a player overlooked by colleges in high school to one of pro baseball’s rising stars, Woodrow said he doesn’t play to prove people wrong. Instead, he concentrates on what he can control. Whenever an opportunity presents itself, Woodrow does his best to take advantage of it, including making the most of his promotion to Double-A after starting the year in Single-A.

“I don’t have a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “What’s important to me is showing up every day and preparing myself to the best of my ability. I don’t ever want to put extra pressure on myself. When I got called up to Double-A, I was pretty relaxed. I think that helped me play well.”

Bridich is well-positioned to comment on how meaningful it is for Woodrow to play in the Arizona Fall League. Bridich played college baseball at Butler and was an assistant coach at Illinois-Chicago. Additionally, his brother, Jeff Bridich, is the general manager of the Colorado Rockies.

“It’s big, and it means Detroit is investing in his future,” Nick Bridich said. “The league is designed to have the top prospects play each against other day in and day out. It’s a place where farm directors can watch the young talent all in one place.”

Nevertheless, Woodrow said he understands that the invitation to the Arizona Fall League guarantees him nothing, and he will continue to keep his focus simple.

“There are going to be a lot of great players out there, and it will be a good test to go up against the best of the best in each organization,” he said. “I don’t think it’s something that will determine my future. It’s going to be fun, and I’m looking forward to meeting the players, hanging out with them and competing against them.

“I will stay in the moment and keep trying to get better.”

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon/MiLB.com