No knocking on this Wood

*3B Eric Wood (Pickering, Ont.), shown here with the Ontario Blue Jays was the first Canadian drafted in 2012 from the Blinn College Buccaneers, putting him in the same breath as the likes of current and former big leaguers Brett Lawrie, Mike Nickeas, Adam Loewen, Adam Stern, Scott Thorman, Justin Morneau, Kevin Nicholson, Chris Reitsma, Ryan Dempster and Jason Dickson./Photo: Bernie Hann Studios .... 2012 Canadians in the Minors  2012 Canadians in College Letters of Intent

By Bob Elliott

The Ontario Blue Jays had an off day at the 2010 Connie Mack World Series. And they needed one after losing the opener to the Midland Redskins 9-2 in Farmington, N.M. “We had a home run derby, hitters against pitchers,” said Danny Bleiwas, coach of the Blue Jays. “This pitcher is putting on a show. Altitude or not, this kid was hitting the ball almost 500 feet, I told him he was my No. 4 hitter.” The kid, Pickering’s Eric Wood, told Bleiwas he didn’t want to hit any more when he joined the Jays, He was a pitcher. Wood joined an illustrious group of Canadians pros selected over the years when he was chosen the top Canadian in the draft on Day II of the three-day draft of high schooler and collegians. Pittsburgh Pirates scout Trevor Haley chose Wood in the sixth round. Drafted a year ago by the Oakland A’s, Wood went to Blinn College in Texas. “I was planning on going back,” said Wood from a car on the way to Guelph, where his Barrie Baycats were playing Tuesday night. “I didn’t follow the draft on the web site, my scout phoned and I agreed to sign for $100,000 (US),” said Wood, who played for Don Linthwaite’s Pickering Red Sox and Marc Picard’s Team Ontario before joining Bleiwas’ Jays. “(Bleiwas) was like a father to me,” said Wood. “He kept me going in the right direction,” A year ago June, A’s scout Matt Higginson selected Wood in the 37th round (“Matt was the first guy to see Eric potential, other than myself,” said Bleiwas) to cap a winter of making the drive to the Jays Mississauga clubhouse with Whitby infielder Joey Hawkins. Drafted in the 42nd round by the Kansas City Royals, Hawkins chose to attend Missouri State University last fall. Before Hawkins left, Wood went to him and thanked him. “Eric thanked Joey for turning around his life,” Bleiwas said. “Eric’s dynamic kid and I’m happy for him, but I didn’t see it coming. I’m pleasantly surprised. I thought he was a year away.” From home run derby showman to five homers in 30 games on the Jays college falls schedule and off to Blinn. “He deserves everything good coming his way,” said Bleiwas, “of all the guys we’ve had drafted I’m as excited for him as anyone. He’s a little like Marcus Knecht, as a hitter, he’s a prototype third baseman.” Wood had pre-draft workouts for the Houston Astros and the Royals, knocked in 39 runs for Blinn. “I was sitting in Oshawa with my mom when my scout called,” Wood said. “My mom was excited, but not as excited as me. My mom’s French. We don’t cry.” Suzanne Cantin took the phone for a second before giving it since Wood couldn’t use his American-based cell phone, saying: “Baseball has been his passion since he was little. He was kind of in between. Go back to school or do you turn pro? Now he has the answer.” On the list of impressive names of current and former major leaguers Brett Lawrie, Mike Nickeas, Adam Loewen, Adam Stern, Scott Thorman, Justin Morneau, Kevin Nicholson, Chris Reitsma, Ryan Dempster and Jason Dickson plus prospects like Jameson Taillon, James Paxton and Phillippe Aumont, you can now add Wood. “Wow, I hope he turns out like some of  those guys,” said Haley, a Pirates area scout, based in Houston, after hearing what company his pick was now with. Haley gave a rundown of watching Wood ... the way scouting is supposed to work. He saw him during fall ball for the first time, watched a couple of games and was interested. He went back in late January or February. “He wasn’t quite ready to be seen, he had some ability, but he hadn’t played a whole bunch,” Haley said. “As it happens in this game I said ‘he’s not ready to be seen yet.’ He’s not used to playing outside at that time of year.” Haley made the 90-minute drive from Houston to see Wood again in early March and ... “I liked him again, I went back again and I liked him more.” The Pirates worked Wood out and thought he was “interesting off the mound too.” “What he did from day one was stay inside the ball well, he drives the ball to the big part of the field,” said Haley in the midst of his fifth draft with the Pirates. “The first time I spoke to him I asked him what he had to do to be better? “And Eric said in that Canadian accent ‘oh man, I have to pull the ball better.’” Haley laughed re-telling the story of what he told Wood next. “Do you understand you’ve got the hard part figured out, pulling the ball is easy,” said Haley. “He’s a great kid, he’s still figuring it out, it was fun to see a guy whose body knew how to do it but he was learning what he was doing in his head.”

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