Being a part of something bigger than yourself is something truly remarkable. It allows a group of individuals from all backgrounds to come together and grow as one collective group striving for the ultimate goal. However, the unique thing about being involved in something so special is that you can’t truly understand the magnitude of what you have accomplished until you step away and look back upon it.
For Edward “Ted” Wood, his experiences helping to guide the United States to a gold medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, is a memory that he and his teammates have now fully grasped 30 years later.
Wood was first introduced to USA Baseball at the 1985 National Sports Festival, where he starred for the North team and was ultimately selected to be a part of the 18U National Team.
Following a successful season with the 18U squad and graduating from Orange High School in Pepper Pike, Ohio, Wood elected to attend the University of New Orleans. The ability to play baseball year-round in Louisiana, something he was not accustomed to in Ohio, and the beautiful baseball facilities on campus made the college decision easy for Wood.
While everyone experiences a major life change while getting accustomed to college, Wood took solace in the fact that he had already competed and proved himself as a top talent on the world stage.
“The fact that USA Baseball was the best of the best gave me some armor to walk into a college setting,” Wood remembers. “That was a big thing to play for the United States and to get to play against all of these great players from all over the world and compete to make the USA team. Then competing against the world was another level walking into a college setting. I don't know if you could put a dollar amount on that. It's just it was a tremendous experience.”
This mentality allowed Wood to enjoy a successful career with the Privateers and after being selected as a unanimous first-team All-American in 1987, he was invited to join the Collegiate National Team.
It didn’t take long for Wood to pick up where he left off in international play during the 1987 season. He hit eight home runs and scored 38 runs, ranking second on the team while batting .359 at the plate.
Even though the ’87 Collegiate National Team enjoyed many successes, achieving a combined overall record of 42-14, the team ultimately fell to Cuba 13-9 in the gold medal game at the X Pan American Games in Indianapolis, Indiana, leaving many on the team hungry to achieve more for their country the following year.
“Playing that series up in Indianapolis in the Pan American games. That gives you a little bit more armor. We traded blows with the Cubans. We won one game against Cuba and lost in the finals again. That was another piece of armor that we had.”
The following summer, after studying biology at UNO, Wood and the rest of the players that played on the 1987 team set their sights on earning a gold medal for the United States at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games in South Korea.
Team USA started the 1988 season off on the right foot, earning a record of 38-10, but once again fell short in a gold medal game to Cuba, this time at the Baseball World Cup. With the Olympics beginning 12 days after the loss, the team had to reset its sights on the tournament that the whole world would be watching.
After winning the first two games over host country Korea and Australia, the squad stumbled against Canada, before topping Puerto Rico, 7-2, to reserve a spot in the gold medal game against Japan.
Wood remembers vividly the emotions that the team had leading up to the gold medal game.
“The big thing that comes to mind when I think back was there was a quiet confidence within the dugout,” Wood remembers. “There was a little bit of apprehensive nervousness, but we knew why we were going; we knew where we were going to end up. As a team, there wasn’t an emotional rollercoaster, we all just knew why we were there. It’s indescribable to be in the dugout and know today is the day.”
Japan struck first in the game, plating a runner in the second inning before Team USA scored three runs in the fourth inning and a run in the fifth to take a 4-1 lead. After scoring two runs to cut the lead to one, the Japanese were held scoreless for the rest of the game as Team USA won 5-3 to earn the gold medal. Wood went 2-for-4 from the plate in the game, while also scoring a run.
The win marked the first gold medal for USA Baseball at the Olympic games, a historic feat that has only happened once more at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Before winning a gold with the Collegiate National Team, Wood was selected as the 29th pick in the first round of the MLB Draft by the San Francisco Giants. He made his big-league debut with the Giants on September 4, 1991. He played two seasons with the Giants before signing with the Montreal Expos in 1993, where he played one year before his retirement from baseball.
Now, Wood serves as an Associate Vice President, Financial Planning Specialist, for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, in Atlanta, Georgia.
While many might not be able to directly correlate hitting a 90-mph fastball to the gap in right-center field to helping manage the wealth that people have accumulated their whole lives, competing for the United States helped give Wood the perspective he needs to be successful in the world of finance.
“Having to go through some of those events that aren't always great when you are traveling around playing for the United States…, we had to go to these events that were tiring at times,” Wood said. “You start to understand the game is bigger than just your uniform. USA Baseball is bigger than just you as a player.
“Now I'm a financial advisor and a lot of people’s wealth is bigger than just them.” He continued. “If it’s set up correctly, we want to accumulate, distribute and leave a legacy for the future. You’ll see that style thought process in my business here and, a lot of times, the discipline to do the tough thing is probably the right thing to do in the long run, but it’s tough at the time. That brings it back into your career as a baseball player.”
On September 28, the team will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the gold medal game and Ted Wood has now had the chance to step back and realize not only how big of an impact his team has made on USA Baseball, but how big of an impact USA Baseball has had on him.“I mean, it's one of those things that you look back on your career in professional baseball and then you go back to ‘Wow, I did something that nobody else got a chance to do.’ What an unbelievable opportunity kids have if they get a chance to play for the United States.”