PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Most professional baseball players never had a chance to play in the Olympics, it was playing for your club or college or organization or maybe international competition on a smaller scale. That is why even though there is a risk of injury and a breakup of the pre-season routine, Major League Baseball players have embraced the World Baseball Classic.
Among those is Pirates minor-league third baseman Eric Wood.
“Playing for your country is just a different kind of pride,” Wood said. “It’s really not about yourself. It’s about representing and doing anything you can do to help your team. I think you get to see the best out of guys.”
A native of Oshawa, Ontario, Wood had dreamed of putting on the red and white since he was a child.
“It was incredibly special for me,” Wood said. “I always wanted to represent my country in some way, shape or form. It was definitely something I’ve thought about for a long time.”
Wood was part of an underdog Canadian team whose roster ranged from 41-year-old retired closer Eric Gagne to 21-year-old prospect Tyler O’Neill. Canada was managed by 12-year Toronto Blue Jays catcher Ernie Whitt and the coaches included All-Star Larry Walker.
“It was awesome, playing in Miami [their pool site for WBC games],” Wood said. “The Dominican team, the U.S. team, big powerhouse teams like that drew a lot of people out there and just being on the same field as those guys was pretty special for me.”
And that was the issue for Canada, they got the tough draw, and lost all three games to the Dominican Republic, Columbia and the United States. Not that it cheapened the experience for Wood, who, until this point, lists the Double A Eastern League as his highest level of competition.
“I get goosebumps just thinking about it looking back what it was like,” said the 24-year-old Wood who went 2 for 12 during pool play. “It was insane. The crowds were insane. Very loud, everybody brought instruments and made a lot of noise. It was a very electric environment.”
Wood remembered his first at bat, noting he didn’t even see the first pitch from Dominican Carlos Martinez, and then stepped out of the batters’ box and soaked it in.
“Nothing like the regular season, it’s do-or-die,” Wood said on his first day back to Pirates camp. “There is no calmness about it, there is so much emotion and electricity in the air. If I were to compare it to anything it would be playoffs, it would have to be like playoffs. If not, something more than that.”