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Brandon Wood Joins 'From Phenom To The Farm:' Episode 19

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“From Phenom to the Farm” releases new episodes every other Tuesday featuring players whose experiences vary across the professional baseball spectrum. Players will discuss their personal experiences going from high school graduation to the life of a professional baseball player.

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Brandon Wood has invaluable insight to pass onto any young player who walks into his batting cage in his adopted hometown of Billings, Mont.—more than just tips on the right swing plane or proper timing mechanism in the box.

Wood knows success—record-setting, elite level success. He knows the mentality it takes to unlock those kind of results, but also the mentality that can tear it all down.

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In 2005, two years after the Angels selected the Arizona prep product 23rd overall, Wood annihilated pitching in the high Class A California League at a record clip. He bashed 43 home runs during the regular season, and finished the year with 101 extra-base hits, something BA’s Matt Eddy named the 7th most significant Minor League achievement of the past 40 seasons.

Wood went on to tack on another 14 homers in 29 Arizona Fall League games and finished 2005 both in the record books and at the top of BA’s Angels Top 10 Prospects list. His tall frame and power potential led some evaluators to throw out Cal Ripken Jr. and Troy Glaus comparisons. After a subsequent solid season at Double-A Arkansas, Wood was primed to fulfill his promise as a top prospect and be the big league star he’d always dreamed of being.

It was then though, just as Wood had reached the verge of breaking into the big leagues, that self-doubt began to creep into his mindset. He started to read less into the reports lauding his promise and chances of success, and instead couldn’t shake nagging whispers about his strikeout rate and if he could actually tap into that power in The Show.

When he finally did get the call, sporadic playing time and a seeming lack of faith from his manager continued to erode Wood’s confidence and mental health. By the 2010 season, Wood was riddled with anxiety at the ballpark and especially in the batter’s box. On his daily drive to the ballpark, the second Angel Stadium popped into view he’d be stricken by a panic attack.

Afraid of being sent down, or being labeled as “soft” or a “head case,” Wood at first internalized his struggles—choosing to self-medicate postgame with alcohol instead. He finally sought help from doctors towards the end of his Angels tenure, but even after the team waived the player who’d once been the future in April of 2011, Wood’s mental struggles followed him at each ensuring step in his career.

“Your hand eye-coordination when your brain is like that and you’re going through panic attacks…your hands don’t do what your brain is telling them, and it’s a terrifying feeling,” Wood said. “That was my reality until I retired.”

In 2014, nine years after his record-setting season in the Cal League, Wood hung up his spikes after hitting .098 in 25 games for Sugar Land in the independent Atlantic League.

It’d be easy for Wood to be bitter and spiteful towards the game of baseball—and for awhile, he was. The stresses of the game had robbed him of his mental health, and it took time, a supportive wife, and a move to Montana to rediscover both an appreciation for baseball and a passion for helping youth baseball players avoid the same pitfalls that he had to go through the hard way.

“Looking back, I feel like I was the can’t-miss that missed, that was now given so many tools to help,” said Wood.

These days, when he’s not at home with his wife and two children, Wood spends his time instructing youth baseball players, and relaying the important lessons of a career that didn’t go quite to plan.

On the latest episode of ‘From Phenom to the Farm,’ former big leaguer Brandon Wood takes us through his rise up the prospect rankings, struggles with mental health, and how he came to grips with a career that didn’t go to plan.

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