Umpire making a comeback on and off the baseball field

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PHOENIX - We first introduced Arizona’s Family to John Woods back in September of 2006. It had been two years since the Valley man suffered a traumatic brain injury. 

Woods was a professional baseball umpire in the minor leagues with hopes of one day going to the majors. While his injury may have put him on the disabled list for the last several years, he is making a comeback. 

3TV got a chance to see it unfold on the field, and in life.
 
“I was like a little kid,” Woods said. “I couldn't do things on my own.”

Woods' life changed after a tragic car accident in Venezuela left him with a traumatic brain injury in October of 2004. He was there to umpire a baseball winter league.

“I was in a coma for three weeks and when I came out of it, I was in a wheelchair,” Woods says.

Besides not being able to walk, Woods could not talk. He had double vision and a constant ringing in his ear. After returning to the United States the then 31-year-old would spend two months at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix and the next couple of years in rehab.

“I got speech therapy, neuropsychology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, really all therapies,” Woods says.

While life was difficult, Wood’s ultimate goal was to one day be independent. “I lived in a guest house and rented, so now I'm a first time home-buyer,” Woods said.

He just moved into his new place in January. Woods also works which has included waiting tables and taking care of his autistic brother, Jimmy.

“We go in my Jacuzzi and he helps me clean a little bit,” Woods said. He says he is hoping to inspire other traumatic brain injury survivors by the obstacles he has had to overcome.

“I'll be the first to admit that I have disabilities, but I've made the most of what I've been dealt with,” Woods continues.

He's writing a book. It will be about his life before and after the accident which includes his love for game shows like the “The Price is Right” to his love of umpiring.

It is something Woods only imagined he would remember from videos and photos, that is until now. He was able to correct his double vision after being prescribed prism glasses by Valley Dr. Karen Robertson.

“I really thought I could do this and, with these new glasses, I thought now is a great time to umpire,” Woods said.

Now back on the field more than five and half years after the accident, Woods is umpiring high school baseball through the Arizona Interscholastic Association [AIA].
 
“I think he sends the message that if you want to do it bad enough someone will give you an opportunity and you can do it,” Dennis Meadows says.
 
Meadows, is a close friend of Woods and assigns officials for the AIA is amazed at how far he has come. “John was good enough that you don't lose that, I don't think you lose that,” Meadows continues.

With a few games already under his belt from a varsity baseball game at Central High School to a Mariners spring training Triple-A game, a lot of family and fellow umpires were on hand for support.
   
“When he told me he was going to do some high school games I was a little skeptical,” major league baseball umpire Gary Darling says. “However after watching him work, he looked fine. He was locked in on pitches and wasn't flinching.”

“It’s like riding a bike,” Jeff Macias says. “The former major league baseball spring training umpire said Woods instincts are all there. So he knows where he has to be.”

Woods' parents are very proud of their son’s accomplishments. “This is the best for him, it's a miracle,” Dick Woods said.

“He was just so determined to get back that I think that was half the battle, his determination,” Sharon Woods adds.
 
For Woods, just being back in uniform gives him that extra motivation to continue to improve on and off the field.

“It's what I was meant to do,” Woods said. “I was meant to be an umpire.”

Woods' goal is to eventually umpire college baseball as well as get back to the minor leagues.