Sky Sox's Wood eyes return to big leagues

July 30, 2012
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Seven years ago, Sky Sox infielder Brandon Wood was one of the best players in minor-league baseball, a promising major league career ahead for the Los Angeles Angels’ 2003 first-round pick. In his first year playing professional baseball, he smashed 43 homers, batted in 115 runs and was the first man in minor-league history to collect 100 extra-base hits.

At 20, he owned the California League record for home runs and played in the 2005 MLB Futures Game as part of the All-Star weekend.

“That was a dream season, but it was in A-ball. So that doesn’t really mean anything once you get out of A-ball,” said the former star for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. “You got to continue to be that kind of hitter.”

A versatile infielder, Wood fielded an out at third base in the opening but never made it to the batter’s box Monday against the Fresno Grizzlies. First pitch was nearly 90 minutes late after an extensive downpour left large puddles sprinkled the first and third base lines, and an hour later umpires suspended the scoreless game in the second inning after more rain.

Near the end of his inaugural campaign Wood moved up to the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees but didn’t see time on a big-league field until 2007, when he played 13 games for the Angels. In 2011 – six years after he posted the eye-popping numbers that left MLB scouts drooling – he played his first full season in the majors, mostly with the Pirates.

But his experience is invaluable on a Sky Sox team full of players who are a swing tweak or roster opening away from major league baseball.

“The only thing that I can express to guys around here is how to handle struggles and the things that I did wrong and the things that I could’ve done better,” Wood, 27, said. “Maybe shed some light on the ups-and-downs that I’ve gone through.”

As he tries to build the consistency – both at the plate and working the infield – key to a return to the big leagues, Wood says one of the most critical lessons is forgetting each at-bat once he leaves the field. In the past, he says, the disappointing groundouts stayed with him for the rest of the game and sometimes even into the next day.

What he has lost in bat speed he has made up for in maturity, and manager Stu Cole says it’s “good to have a guy like that around.”

“When you get older, you tend to lose some things, and I know he’s probably lost a step or two and he’s probably lost some pop in that bat,” Cole said. “But the guy’s still out there battling, he’s still out there trying to do the job and that’s all we can ask for.”

Game rescheduled: The third game of the series between the Sky Sox and Fresno Grizzlies will pick up Tuesday at 5:05 p.m. in the bottom of the second inning. A seven-inning game two will follow. 

Short hops: The Pacific Coast League named Sky Sox starter Alex White its Pitcher of the Week Monday. Over his last two starts, White had a 0.60 ERA and 10 strikeouts … Colorado Springs leads the PCL with 194 runs through Monday … Starter Rob Scahill didn’t make it to the plate Monday, but he entered the game with a .348 average. 

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