In baseball, as in most things, there comes a time when the time has come. Brandon Wood is there.
The power-hitting infielder for the Angels will turn 25 on March 2. He starts spring training Tuesday with a new beginning, not merely a new season. Chone Figgins is gone, off to the Seattle Mariners with his career contract in his pocket.
Wood isn't looking so much for a career contract as he is a career. Figgins' third base spot is open and Wood gets to be first in line.
His approach to this opportunity will be music to the ears of Manager Mike Scioscia, the Angels' master of the blue-collar approach to life and baseball. Work hard, think about team first, be patient and your name will turn up every day on Scioscia's lineup card. It also helps if you bat .300 and hit 20 home runs.
"I know, on the Angels, no job is just given to you," Wood says.
Scioscia says the same thing, just in different words.
"Every young player has to have a sense of urgency," he says, "and apply himself and get after it and know that it's his window. . . . "
It's not exactly now or never for Wood, but with the Angels, you can see it from there. Wood is out of options, so he isn't coming to spring training in Tempe, Ariz., with a fallback plan, namely triple-A Salt Lake. He has been there, done that. Matter of fact, he has done the minor leagues since 2003, always in the Angels' organization.
Nice time. Had fun. Time to move up.
The nicest time for Wood was 2005, when he hit 43 home runs for Rancho Cucamonga and shared national minor league player-of-the-year honors with Rancho teammate and current Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick.
Kendrick hit .384 that season and Wood, in addition to his 43 homers, batted .321. They played for the Class-A Quakes, at a stadium named the Epicenter, and they were twin temblors.
That year was enough to whet the appetite of hard-core Angels fans, not to mention hard-core Angels brass. Wood was mostly a shortstop then, and the thought of a shortstop with that kind of power made lots of people around Anaheim giddy.
But Wood's chances have been stymied by an Angels team so good for so long that opportunity didn't knock.
To date, he has played only 86 major league games, had 224 at-bats and hit seven home runs. His most consistent big league success has been getting to the airport to go back and forth between Anaheim and Salt Lake, as per Scioscia's game-by-game needs.
To date, the Angels and their fans have seen just enough of Wood to know they need to see more. Wood might be the next Mike Schmidt, who is in the Hall of Fame, or he might be the next guy who sweeps the floors there.
Last season, Wood hit .293 with 22 home runs and 72 RBIs in 99 games for Salt Lake. He hit .195 with one home run and struck out 19 times in 41 at-bats with the Angels.
Wood says he saw Scioscia a few days ago, but there was no closed-door session, no litany of expectations or even a discussion of what it will take to fill Figgins' shoes.
"I didn't expect a phone call this off-season, nor any meeting to talk about it," Wood says. "I know where I stand. I know what Scioscia stands for, how he thinks and what he wants. I just have to play good, play hard and stay focused. We'll see what that brings."
Scioscia says, "We're real comfortable that Brandon is going to do what we've seen him do in the minor leagues and be a big part of our club."
If nothing else, Wood has a home-field advantage at spring camp in Tempe. He grew up in Scottsdale and lives nearby, as do his parents, Kerry and Jill, and his sister, Lyndsey Huff, mother of Grace, age 3.
"Ah, Grace. Talk about a fireball," Wood says.
They'll all be there, rooting and hoping, as will dozens of old high school friends.
"Those guys will be there, every day, booing me, no matter what I do," Wood says, laughing.
He says he is ready, is grateful for the chance, even though he will miss Figgins and what he brought to the Angels, as a player and teammate. He says he has been around long enough, and been in enough major league games, for things to be slowing down now for him to the point where he can act, rather than just react.
"This is a real process, and sometimes you don't appreciate or understand that when you are younger," Wood says. "When I hit those 43 homers in '05, it was a level where I'd just go up there and get the kind of pitches where I'd figure I'll either strike out or hit a home run.
"I don't think I even saw a two-seamer until double A and a cutter until triple A."
Now, if things go as Scioscia and the Angels expect, Wood will be seeing, on a daily basis, the likes of John Lackey, CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera.
Wood says he's ready. The Angels are hoping.
Times staff writer Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this report.