New Manage’s path makes him ideal teacher

by Dan M | Posted on Sunday, March 30th, 2014


By: Alex Vispoli and Chris Vosters
Special Contributors

Dr Pepper Ballpark will once again serve as a Rangers’ prospect playground in 2014, but the rising talent is not confined to the diamond. This season, the RoughRiders have a prospect in the dugout as well.
New RoughRiders manager Jason Wood arrives in Frisco by way of the Rangers’ Advanced-A affiliate in Myrtle Beach, S.C. As the skipper, Wood commandeered the Pelicans to a 223-184 overall record and a playoff berth in each of his three seasons at the helm. Baseball America named the 44-year-old the “Best Managerial Prospect” in the Carolina League for consecutive seasons and he was also named the circuit’s 2013 Manager of the Year. The Rangers now turn to Wood to impart the wisdom accrued over an 18-year playing career to their Double-A prospects.
For a minor league baseball player, the path to the majors is long, arduous and, in many cases, incomplete. Wood not only faced these odds, he overcame them.
He made his Major League debut at the age of 28, but played in just 40 games over the course of two seasons. He then returned to the minors for seven more seasons only to reemerge as a 36-year-old veteran with the Florida Marlins. Wood’s story is a scene rarely played in Major League theatres, and it has translated to a successful run as a manager and developer of talent.
A native of California, Wood played both high school and college baseball in Fresno. At Fresno State, Wood helped lead the Bulldogs to a 1991 Big West conference crown with a .343 batting average. After Oakland selected Wood as the 308th pick of the 1991 draft, the righty methodically worked his way up the ladder in the A’s organization. He was a Southern League All-Star in 1994 with Double-A Huntsville. In 1997, Wood turned in perhaps his finest statistical season with Triple-A Edmonton when he hit .321 and averaged over one hit per game.
Wood’s dedication appeared to pay off when he made his big league debut for the A’s on Opening Day in 1998 as a defensive replacement. But after just one week, Oakland sent Wood back to Triple-A. In June, the Athletics obtained veteran Bip Roberts from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for a “player-to-be-named-later.” The following month, Wood discovered he was that player.
In Detroit, Wood earned his first start and his first hit in a major league game, but spent much of his tenure with Triple-A Toledo. Wood played in 37 games with the Tigers before he became a free agent after the 1999 season. The Pittsburgh Pirates soon became Wood’s third organization in as many years, but his numbers struggled with Triple-A Nashville. After batting just .240 through two seasons without a major league appearance, Wood was out of a job after the 2001 season. His career had thrown him another curveball.
As a 32-year-old free agent with only 40 games in the big leagues, Wood was at a crossroads. Many players, perhaps, would have hung up the cleats. Wood, however, rolled up his sleeves and continued to improve. He joined the Florida Marlins organization before the 2002 season and spent five more seasons at the Triple-A level, where his numbers rebounded. He batted above .285 in four-of-five years and was named a Pacific Coast League post-season All-Star in 2002.
After seven full seasons in the minors, he was recalled to the big leagues with the Marlins in September of 2006.  On September 9, Wood recorded his first major league hit in nearly a decade. He finished the ’06 campaign with six hits in 13 at bats as a pinch hitter for the Marlins. The late-season audition prompted the Marlins to extend a spring training invitation to Wood in 2007. He entered camp under a minor league contract, but a strong showing in the spring led Florida to add him to the 25-man roster.
At age 37, after 16 years as a professional baseball player, Wood played his first full season in Major League Baseball as the Marlins’ pinch hitter and defensive replacement. At the conclusion of the 2008 season, having spent much of the year with Triple-A Albuquerque, Wood decided to retire.
More than any statistical accomplishment, Wood’s 18-year playing career is defined by perseverance, dedication and commitment, characteristics essential in withstanding the ebbs and flows of a baseball season. Effective coaches prepare players to succeed in the physical and mental components of the game. The longevity of Wood’s career is a testament to his durability and mastery of both aspects, and there is no doubt that his experience makes him an ideal teacher to minor league players who dream of a chance in the big leagues.
Now, as his vocation progresses into a new stage, the new manager of the RoughRiders simultaneously lends a hand in the development of the game’s younger players.
He may be a late bloomer, but Jason Wood is a prospect worth keeping an eye on.


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