A self-described history nerd, Ryan Woodward (B.A. in Music-Business in 2009) has an eclectic mix of business and arts administration skills that has made him a valuable leader in preserving, honoring and promoting women in baseball. Since childhood, he has always been drawn to the 1940’s and World War II history. A trip to his hometown library in Owensboro, Kentucky initially opened his eyes to the relevance of studying history.
“My mother was an English teacher and during summers we went to the library at least once a week,” said Woodward. “I was nine years old and found a children’s book on Anne Frank. My mother explained to me what the Holocaust was in context of World War II and what racism was. I really became fascinated with history and that 1940’s time period, which included women’s baseball. The enormity of the war and the impact it had, and the weight of what happened during the Holocaust really stuck with me.”
“A League of Their Own” Sparked a Life-long Interest in Women’s Baseball History
In 1991, Columbia Pictures “A League of Their Own” began filming at League Stadium in Huntingburg, Indiana and Bosse Field in Evansville, Indiana. Woodward recalls that the filming was a “big deal locally” and it inspired him to dig deeper into the topic of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) formed in 1943.
His interest and passion eventually led him to join the AAGPBL Players Association as an associate member, serve as a board member and then as heritage project coordinator for the International Women’s Baseball Center (IWBC). Woodward also founded the Women in Baseball Week, which is an annual, worldwide event recognizing the value, diversity, and cultural significance of women in baseball. He created and continues to develop the Women’s Baseball Heritage Trail – with over 330 trail locations nationwide. Woodward was also instrumental in nominating Anna May “Hutch” Hutchison, a local Louisville baseball player, to the 2020 Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame.
It should come as no surprise then, that when Amazon Studios’ new 2022 streaming series “A League of Their Own” was searching for history consultants, Woodward was recommended by his colleagues at IWBC.
“I did get to meet Will Graham, one of the co-creators and lead writers for the show,” said Woodward. “I also spoke with one of the producers and a director. They wanted pictures of period specific scoreboards, historical location suggestions for filming, things like that. I am not sure how much of my input made it into the show, but I am excited that the show will tell a lot more unheard stories. It is opening up history and baseball to an all new audience.”
IU Southeast Prepared Woodward for Success
Woodward enrolled into the music business program at IU Southeast in 2004 and was named a Naomi K. Rasmussen Music Scholar. He worked in the IU Southeast music and theater office, interned with the Louisville Orchestra and created the Arts Institute String Clinic in 2004, which still operates today at IU Southeast.
“The string clinic idea happened one day when myself, other staff, and faculty shared ideas for programs that went beyond the classroom,” said Woodward. “At the time, there was no shortage of band and choir camps, but not a lot for string players. As a violin player, I wanted to create something just for string players. I had nine months to put this camp together. This was such a terrific opportunity for a music business, arts administration student to work on and I learned so much. I really loved doing a project that required all of these skills sets – identifying a need, planning, organizing, promoting and educating. The clinic is still one of the things I am most proud of in my career.”
Woodward went on to earn a master’s degree in Holocaust and genocide studies at West Chester University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in library and information science from University of Pittsburgh. His diverse interests and education provided him opportunities at libraries and museums around the country including the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh and the International Women’s Baseball Center.
This past summer Woodward was named a Kentucky Colonel by Governor Andy Beshear for bringing honor and recognition to the Commonwealth’s baseball pioneers and for continuing to work toward leveling the playing field for women’s sports worldwide.
“The baseball research is meaningful for me and I think it’s helped me connect to a lot of people who are looking for information and a connection to history,” said Woodward. “I think there’s still a next big step that I haven’t even thought of and it’s pretty exciting to see where this goes.”
For more information visit International Women’s Baseball Center (internationalwomensbaseballcenter.org) or About – Women in Baseball Week