By Jim Lane
More than a few Canadians have made their marks in the major leagues. Jason Bay, Russell Martin, Justin Morneau and Joey Votto come to mind.
Curve third baseman Eric Wood isn’t in the class of those guys – at least, not yet – but he is Canadian-born and he was the first player from that country selected in the 2012 draft when the Pirates picked him in the sixth round.
“I was pretty excited about it,” Wood said recently at Peoples Natural Gas Field. “I guess it wasn’t the strongest Canadian draft class there’s been in the past, but it was still a thrill just to get drafted in the first place, so I was excited.”
Wood says he looks up to all of the Canadian players, especially Martin, the former Pirate catcher who now plays with the Toronto Blue Jays.
“Russell Martin has had a very successful career,” Wood said. “He’s done a lot of things right and represented (Canada) well.”
Originally a pitcher, Wood was drafted by the Athletics in the 37th round in 2011, but he opted to play junior college ball at Blinn College in Texas, and it turned out to be a good decision. He batted .326 with 13 doubles, five homers and 44 RBIs. The Pirates liked what they saw and drafted him.
“I got fortunate,” Wood said. “A coach, Jamie Hogue, who is now bullpen catcher for the Cardinals, helped guys get scholarships. He knew the manager at Blinn and that was that.”
Wood played in only six games, with the GCL Pirates and short-season State College, after signing in 2012, but the past three seasons have been solid. He batted .255 in 97 games with low-A West Virginia in 2013, then .271 in 113 games at high-A Bradenton in 2014. With the Marauders, he led the Florida State League third basemen in games (113), total chances (328), assists (236) and double plays (25).
He played in 101 games for the Curve in 2015 and batted .237 in 101 Eastern League games.
“Playing here last year definitely means a lot,” Wood said. “Last year everything was new. Double-A competition is great and now I’m really looking forward to this year.
“I made some adjustments in the offseason to get ready for this year,” he said. “I’m excited.”
He’s also excited to have Joey Cora as his manager, a guy who had a solid career as a big-league infielder.
”We’re lucky to have him,” Wood said of Cora. “We had a great spring training with him. He keeps us positive and is an infield guy so he works a lot with us and has tons of pointers.
Cora said he’s anxious to work with Wood.
“We want to keep developing him defensively as a third baseman,” Cora said “Plus, he’s a middle-of-the-order bat and, hopefully he’ll make more contact and show the power he has.
“He got better in spring training and hopefully he’ll keep moving forward.”
That’s fine with Wood, who got some innings with the big-league Pirates in spring training.
“I have high expectations,” Wood said. “We’re going to win and, as for myself, I want to improve on everything.
“There is no off time. It’s baseball time, and that’s what I do.”