Brandon Wood turning a double play with Provo in 2003. That’s Howie Kendrick as his double-play partner.
(Windows Media Player and a broadband Internet connection required to watch the video clips in this article.)
I met Brandon Wood in July 2003.
I was in Provo to do a few days of photography and videography of the Provo Angels, the Rookie-A affiliate in the Pioneer League. (The franchise moved six miles west to Orem to start 2005.)
I was at the far end of the team dugout working on my equipment, when a reed-thin teenager sat down on the steps in front of me and said, “Hi, I’m Brandon Wood.”
Brandon was the Angels’ first round pick (#23 overall) in the June 2003 draft, taken out of Scottsdale High School in Phoenix. Everyone wants a piece of the #1 pick, so I try to give them their own space and don’t bother them until they’re used to my being around. But Woody took the initiative to come over, introduce himself, then sit down on the steps and ask about FutureAngels.com.
That was typical Woody. Polite, humble, unassuming.
Howie Kendrick and Brandon Wood at Rancho Cucamonga in 2005.
Wood was shortstop to Howie Kendrick’s second base at Provo that year. The duo were promoted together to Cedar Rapids in 2004, and then to Rancho Cucamonga in 2005. The two were close on and off the field, and in those days observers speculated which pair of “Siamese twins” would be the Angels’ future middle infield — Wood and Kendrick, or Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo who were a year ahead of them.
(It turned out to be Aybar and Kendrick.)
2005 was a magical season for Wood. He hit 43 homers for the Quakes that year, breaking the Angels’ minor league single-season record of 42 set by Dick Simpson with San Jose in 1962.
Woody’s home run record chase became a running joke between the two of us. It seemed that almost every time I showed up to film him at Rancho Cucamonga, he homered. After returning to the dugout and receiving high-fives from his teammates, he’d looked towards me, I’d shrug, and he’d smile.
I sprained my foot at Orem in July, and was unable to work games for about a month. Sure enough, Woody went cold. Between July 25 and August 17, he hit only one homer. I finally limped into The Epicenter on August 18 — and he homered. Click here to watch.
The Quakes were due to play at High Desert on Sunday, August 21. I told Woody I would be there to fix his slump — and swore he’d hit three homers.
I was close. He hit two homers and a double. Click here to watch.
“Told ya,” I said as we left the ballpark.
I was there, of course, on September 1, 2005 when Wood hit home run #43 in his final at-bat of the season to break Dick Simpson’s record. Click here to watch.
Brandon worked his way up through the system, considered the top power-hitting prospect in the organization.
In spring training 2008, he was playing in a Triple-A game at the Tempe minor league complex. This was the year he was expected to challenge for the Angels’ third base job, so I gave him his space and didn’t say a word.
Around the fifth inning, playing third base, Woody dove to his left for a ground ball. He skinned the palm of his bare hand as the ball got by.
At the end of the inning, I made my way through the dugout to reach the field so I could shoot photos. In jogged Woody. He saw me, came over and said, “Hi Steve.” Then he raised his hand. “I’d shake your hand but …” and showed me his dirty, bloodied palm.
I scowled and said, “Don’t worry about me! Go play!” But, of course, it was meant with affection.
Brandon was never able in the majors to replicate his minor league success. He’s certainly not the first prospect to fail reaching for the top rung on that ladder, and he won’t be the last.
On April 20, he was designated for assignment, which means his Angels career is probably over.
I consider Woody to be one of the two most humble, polite and professional prospects I’ve known in my thirteen seasons covering Angels minor league baseball.
The other? Nick Adenhart.
My heart aches for his failure, as I’m sure do all those who knew him in the minors. But baseball has no tolerance for failure, so now Brandon will ply his trade elsewhere.
Whereever he might be, I will root for him.
Brandon Wood’s banner hanging at The Epicenter in August 2007.