Wood suspended, regains passion
By Matt Betts
Canadian Baseball Network
Anyone who knows Max Wood knows just how passionate he is about the game of baseball.
“I’m an avid baseball fan,” Wood said. “To the point at which my roommates think I have some sort of problem. I spend most of my days reading, watching and playing baseball.”
Wood grew up playing baseball in Vancouver. When he was 14 years old he began playing for the Vancouver Cannons of the British Columbia Premier Baseball League. In 2013 he was a member of Team British Columbia that won gold at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Quebec. After a stellar high school career he was contacted by San Jacinto Community College Gators where he was a two time All-Conference selection. After two seasons in Houston, Texas he signed with the Division I University of Central Florida Knights of the American Athletic Conference.
His first season with UCF was anything but smooth.
“My first year at UCF was a struggle as playing time was rare due to sporadic performance coupled with a few minor injuries,” he said.
During his debut season in Orlando, Fla. he hit just .130 in 23 games and just three starts. After such a rocky season, Wood found himself searching for the confidence and the passion that made him so successful to begin with.
Jump to this summer. Wood’s baseball journey carried him to Staunton, Va. where he donned the red, white and blue of the Staunton Braves, a summer collegiate team that competes in the Valley Baseball League.
He came into the summer with a simple approach.
“I came into the summer with an open mind with the hopes of having fun and regaining the passion that I had partially lost while sitting on the bench at UCF,” he said. “The coaching staff, players and fans in Staunton helped me discover what was missing.”
After arriving in Staunton it didn’t initially go as planned. It was a slow start to the season according to Wood. He then found himself in an altercation during a game with the Harrisonburg Turks that ended in him being suspended.
“As I was stepping into the box I looked up and the pitcher was in his windup so the umpire called time but the pitcher continued with his delivery and threw the ball at me,” he said. “I got out of the way and looked at the pitcher who was already smiling and walking towards me. I exchanged words with the pitcher and the catcher then found myself thrown out of the game. The pitcher and the catcher weren’t.”
As it turns out, the four days he had to sit was exactly what the outfielder needed. Upon returning from his suspension Wood went on a 21 game hitting streak. He credits the success with the ability to analyze his approach during the suspension.
“I had four days to reflect on how my season was going to that point and what adjustments I could make in order to progress and start performing to my standards,” he said. “I arrived at the conclusion that I was pressing for hits and that I was getting out on my front side which was making it impossible to hit. Upon return from my suspension I went to the plate with the mind set of staying back and the solid contact started coming.”
Wood finished the season hitting .390 over 31 regular season games. He swatted five home runs and drove in 21. In two playoff games he hit .375. He was named Signs USA Player of the Week for the end of June and was named to the Valley Baseball League All-League first team.
His summer in Staunton gave the young man exactly what he needed.
“This summer was a great experience that helped me find the passion for baseball that I feel was missing during my first year at UCF.”
As big of a baseball fan as he is, Wood doesn’t try to model his game after anyone in particular. He instead studies the game and tries to take things from various players he watches.
“I have never really modelled my game after anyone in particular, but in recent years a plethora of players have started to buy into the ‘fly ball revolution,’” he said. “After reading and watching video I realized that my offensive game was way too ground ball oriented and started watching video of Josh Donaldson, Yonder Alonso and Miguel Cabrera, as well as many others.”
As Wood heads back to UCF for what he hopes is a successful senior season, he will hopefully look back at his season with the Staunton Braves as a turning point.
“What this summer has taught me more than anything was to relax. I have always had high expectations of myself and not getting much opportunity last season at UCF really wore on me,” he said. “I think this summer has proven to my coaches that I have more than enough ability to play at this level and will continue to progress through fall ball and the season.”