At 5-foot-6, 120 pounds, Brody Wofford didn’t have a shot at playing at Cartersville High School in Georgia.
He knew it because the coaches there told him.
“They said he wasn’t big enough and strong enough to play on varsity,” said Todd Wofford, Brody’s father and a former small college baseball player.
So Brody left for Rome, Georgia, after his sophomore year. He then sprouted to nearly 6 feet that summer and packed on about 30 pounds. He developed into Model High School’s starting shortstop, hitting .511 as a junior and .515 as a senior.
And, now, less than three years after being too small and weak for his high school team, the late-blooming Brody is LSU’s starting designated hitter — even if he hasn’t ever shaved, his father jokes. Coach Paul Mainieri plans to start him at DH in a three-game series starting Thursday at Texas A&M (19-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference), a squad ranked No. 2 in five of six major polls.
“Everybody on our staff has all of the confidence in the world in putting him in there this weekend,” hitting coach Andy Cannizaro said. “He can really hit, and he’s got a lot of confidence in his ability to hit. He thinks he can get into the box and hit anybody.”
In just 18 at-bats, this rookie has six hits and five RBIs. He’s driven in two of the most important runs through the first month of the season for the Tigers (15-5, 1-2).
In a season-opening, 12-inning, 6-5 win over Cincinnati, Wofford — in his first college at-bat — ripped a two-out, RBI single to right field to pull LSU within 5-4. He scored the tying run a few batters later to extend the game.
In Sunday’s 7-5 win over Alabama, Wofford, a pinch-hitter, smacked a bases-loaded single up the middle to score the first two runs in a six-run eighth inning.
“He has this uncanny ability to rise up when pressure’s against him,” Todd Wofford said.
Brody got the first start of his career Tuesday against Louisiana-Lafayette. The result: two more hits. It wasn’t all good, Mainieri and Todd Wofford point out.
Brody struck out twice, and he was picked off at first base — growing pains, his father says, for a late-blooming kid.
“I said, ‘You’ve got to learn from that,’ ” said Todd, who coached his son starting at age 3. “Some of these kids have played every inning of every game of their life. He hasn’t.”
Wofford didn’t play varsity baseball until his junior season, when he moved from his mother’s home in Cartersville to his father’s place in Rome, about 30 minutes away.
He was too small to make the team at Cartersville, and it’s not like he arrived at LSU in his current state — 6-2, 190.
“He was about 168 when he got there,” Todd said.
Brody gained weight over the summer and then packed on 13 more pounds over Christmas break. Todd encouraged him to each six meals a day while home for the holidays.
What’d he eat?
“Everything but the kitchen sink,” Todd said. “We eat a lot of deer meat here.”
Wofford is a self-proclaimed country boy — a north Georgia kid with a Tennessee native father. He hunts, fishes and said during an interview in high school that his favorite gift was his truck.
But finding a place for him in the field isn’t easy. Wofford played shortstop in high school, but LSU is settled there (Kramer Robertson) and at second base (Cole Freeman). First base and third base are potential spots for him at some point and so are the corner outfield gigs.
For now, though, he’ll ride the bench until his spot in the lineup arrives for him to display that sweet swing.
“Good hand-eye coordination. Very sound swing. This fall, he displayed that,” Mainieri said. “He just needed to get stronger. He ate like a horse, lifted weights a lot and is a little bit stronger now.”
In his country twang, Wofford describes himself as “just a banger trying to play on the corners.” He knows shortstop isn’t in his future — at LSU or anywhere else.
“I’m going to get bigger,” Wofford said. “Everybody recruited me as a shortstop, but I never thought I’d end up playing there.”
The scholarship offers came, albeit later than normal. He chose LSU over Florida State, TCU and Oklahoma, among others, his father said.
Schools loved his sweet, smooth swing. Cannizaro first saw it at the 2014 Area Code Games in California, a high school event. Wofford hit .625 and scored three runs in nine at-bats.
“He had great at-bats off of some of the better pitchers,” Cannizaro said, “guys that signed for millions of dollars last year.”
He’ll face similar talent over the next few months. A&M is the sixth top-25 team on LSU’s 10-team SEC schedule this season. Wofford gets to show off that sweet swing — no longer that tiny kid who couldn’t play varsity baseball.
“He grew late,” Todd said. “Didn’t grow until his junior year. He hasn’t played a lot in the body he’s got right now. And he’s still got a lot of growing to do I think.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger.