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Q&A with Myrtle Beach Pelicans manager Wood

Myrtle Beach Pelicans manager Jason Wood is entering his first full season as a minor league manager in just his third season of coaching following an 18-year professional playing career.

He spent the past two years as the hitting coach for the Texas Rangers' former Advanced-Class A team in Bakersfield, Calif., which moved to Myrtle Beach in September.

With the Pelicans' 2011 season-opener on Friday at BB&T Coastal Field, Wood took part in a Question and Answer sessions with The Sun News sports writer Alan Blondin.

Q. | How excited are you for opening day to get here?

A. | I'm very excited. I've been pretty busy and really haven't had a whole lot of time to sit around and think about it. I've been really busy with spring training and now here in Myrtle Beach. We have so many days before the season starts it's kind of odd. We have to schedule a bunch of workouts and things for the players to do. I don't know how it worked out this year, but we broke camp Saturday and opening night isn't until Friday. That's kind of odd. In the past you travel to your affiliate and have a day or two.

Q. | Do you think the roster of players you've been given is good enough to make you a winner in your first season as manager?

A. | I have a lot of confidence in these guys. It's definitely too early to talk about winning a pennant, but I'm very confident with what we have knowing it could be a very good season. It's a pretty good squad. I'm very excited to see them play.

Q. | Where do you believe the strength of the team is this year?

A. | Without a doubt I think it's pitching and our defense. On the corners we have two really talented kids at first and third [in Chris McGuiness and Mike Olt], and the three middle infielders are good. I think our defense is going to be pretty good. The starting pitching is all-around a pretty talented group of guys, and they pitched in California, a hitter's league, so playing in a ballpark like this might help them out.

Q. | What players are you most excited about coaching?

A. | That's hard to say. The first year as a manager, I'm really looking forward to watching every one of these guys play. You've got names like Leury Garcia, our shortstop, he's [20] years old and runs like the wind, has unbelievable skills at shortstop and is so exciting to watch. Centerfielder Jared Hoying won the batting title in the Northwest League last year and had a great spring. On the corners McGuiness and Olt are not only good with the glove, but have gap power and pretty good plate awareness, which is good to have too. Both these guys can bop the ball out of the park at any time, but most of their power is in the gap. McGuiness has gap power to both sides of the field. Olt has a lot of pull power and opposite field gap power as well.

Q. | What kind of manager will you be in terms of style of play? Do you like to be aggressive on the base paths, are you a proponent of bunting or swinging away, things of that nature?

A. | I definitely am very aggressive on the base paths. You won't see station to station baseball here. We have some team speed but you don't have to be fast to be aggressive. You'll see some hit-and-runs and a couple of our guys will be on their own to run. I'll give them the first six innings to play and the final three innings are mine if we need to bunt or move guys over or something. For the most part I want them to grow and learn the game the right way.

Q. | You have an experienced coaching staff in hitting coach Julio Garcia, who has spent 16 seasons as a minor league manager, and pitching coach Brad Holman, who worked with many of these pitchers at low-A Hickory last year. Do you plan to lean on them at times this year?

A. | [Garcia] has been an absolute blessing to have. He's taught me a lot about it because he's managed at several different levels. He's not only my hitting coach but my assistant who will help me out immensely during the course of the season. Holman's got experience at the Double-A level and high-A level, played it and been there, and is a tremendous pitching coach who knows his staff really well. On top of that he knows the game really well. It's a tremendous staff to work with.

Q. | What do you think of BB&T Coastal Field, your new home ballpark?

A. | I think it's tremendous. I've seen the field and the surface. The surface is clean as a whistle and is very fast. The ballpark will play quite big. It's tremendously well kept and I think the kids are going to enjoy it.

Q. | I hear you like golf. Do you think you'll be able to get some rounds in while in Myrtle Beach?

A. | I love to swing the clubs so that's another good thing about me being here.

That's kind of my escape from the game itself. I love the serenity of being on the golf course. I'll have my wife and three daughters here this summer - 9-, 7- and 5-year olds. Toward that middle of June they'll be here for good after school's out. I'll be spending some time with the family, and hopefully before they get here I'll get some golf in as well.