We’re down in Bradenton, Fla. for spring training with the Pirates as we prepare for the 2017. Curve broadcaster Trey Wilson will bring you updates throughout the week. For yesterday’s post to open our spring training coverage, click here.
BRADENTON, Fla. — After a breakout season with the Curve in 2016, Eric Wood has continued to turn heads since departing Altoona. He participated in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, he is currently with the big league team in spring training and, later this week, he will join the national team for his home country.
A native of Oshawa, Ontario, Wood is set to join Team Canada this week as they prepare for the upcoming World Baseball Classic with exhibition games against the Blue Jays and Yankees. Canada opens WBC play on Thursday in Miami against the Dominican Republic.
“I’m extremely excited,” Wood said. “It’s something I have always wanted to do.”
Wood is one of several former Curve players suiting up for Canada, including Jamie Romak, Chris Leroux and Dustin Molleken. Former Curve manager Tim Leiper is on the Canadian coaching staff.
“I grew up watching world hockey tournaments, World Juniors, the Olympics,” Wood said. “I love the Olympics. I’m excited to represent Canada.”
Baseball has been excluded from the Olympics since 2008, but the WBC offers a chance for international baseball competition to return to a big stage.
Wood hoped he would have a chance to play for his national team. In fact, he had been eyeing this year’s WBC as far back as two years ago.
“I was looking forward to hopefully getting an opportunity,” Wood said. “I got a call (Canadian National Teams director) Greg Hamilton. He said that I was in the mix.”
Two days later, Hamilton called and informed Wood that he had been selected.
A sixth-round pick for the Pirates in the 2012 MLB Draft out of Blinn College in Texas, Wood led the Curve with a career-high 16 homers in 2016, one long ball more than he had in his first four professional seasons combined.
Along with the improvement at the plate, Wood made big progress defensively last year. He was named as Baseball America’s “Best Defensive Third Baseman” in the Eastern League.
He was named as an E.L. Postseason All-Star and the Pirates sent him to the Arizona Fall League, where he played alongside touted prospects like Boston’s Yoan Moncada and several of his Pittsburgh teammates with the Surprise Saguaros.
Wood performed well in Arizona, hitting .330 in 23 games with three homers and 20 RBIs. He was named to the AFL All-Prospect Team and selected by MLB.com as one of the top 10 breakout prospects in the league.
“It was fun to be out there and be around all of that good talent,” Wood said. “There is a lot of talent out there and there are a lot of prospects in that league. It elevated my game. It forced me to step my game up.”
The Surprise team was comprised of prospects from Pittsburgh, Boston, Kansas City, Minnesota and Texas, offering players a rare chance to play as teammates with players from other organizations.
“You get to learn from being around guys from other organizations,” Wood said. “It’s always interesting to see how other guys do things outside of the circle of the guys I have always played with.”
This spring, Wood has been in big league camp with the Pirates. He launched a home run against Baltimore veteran pitcher Wade Miley back on Feb.26.
“It’s definitely a fun a fun experience being around the big league club and being around the coaching staff here,” Wood said. “I’ve been watching and paying attention to how they take care of their business and how they go about playing the game.
“At the same time I’m trying to get my work done and stay on top of what I’m trying to do, but also learning with open eyes and an open mind. Just trying to take it all in.”
Wood is scheduled to play his last game for the Pirates before the WBC on Sunday as Pittsburgh travels to Tampa to face the Yankees.
The Curve open the home slate 2017 season at Peoples Natural Gas Field on April 13. Single-game tickets go on sale this Saturday, March 11 at Curve Fest, presented by Ravine.