Ryan Wood's carefree baseball days were supposed to be behind him. The stakes were supposed to be too high for the Hylton pitcher-shortstop -- rated among the top 100 national prep prospects (No. 82) by Baseball America -- to play "loosey-goosey," as he and Coach John Colantuoni like to say.
But despite the spotlight heating up and the scouts' eyes locking in on Wood, the senior has reached a comfort level previously unknown to him. Maybe it's already having secured a Division I scholarship, to East Carolina. Maybe it's knowing he might get a call June 7, the first day of the Major League Baseball amateur draft.
"I've just gone out there and been myself this year," said Hylton's Ryan Wood, rated among the top 100 national prep prospects. "My first couple of years I was trying to be somebody else."
(Jonathan Ernst For The Washington Post)
_____Games to Watch_____
No. 1 Westfield at No. 5 St. John's, Thursday, 4: Two of the area's top teams from two of the area's top leagues match up in a classic public-private clash. Likely first-round draft pick Brandon Snyder and the AAA Northern Region champion Bulldogs are undefeated this season; St. John's is consistently one of the contenders for the WCAC title.
No. 10 W.T. Woodson at Langley, Friday, 6:30: The regular season race in the ultra-competitive Liberty District is already tight, and W.T. Woodson (5-3, 3-1) and Langley (8-2, 3-1) are in the mix. The teams enter the week in a three-way tie with Lee (5-2, 3-1). All-Met shortstop-pitcher Mike Bianucci is batting .500 with two home runs.
No. 7 Broad Run at No. 6 Oakton, Thursday, 5: This inter-county matchup features a pair of teams that are 6-1, with their lone blemishes coming in 2-1 games.
O'Connell at Potomac School, Saturday, noon: Senior pitcher Morgan Simpson tossed a no-hitter last week for Potomac School, which plays four games in six days this week.
Maybe it's because the 6-foot-4 right-hander with the 90-plus mph fastball is finally starting to show Prince William area fans the kind of talent he is, just as he showed onlookers at summer showcase events.
"I've already had a lot more fun this year than my first three years," said Wood, who in his first start this season had about 25 scouts huddled to watch his pregame bullpen session, giving the warmup the feel of a golf gallery. "I guess I like having a little bit of pressure on me.
"I've just gone out there and been myself this year. My first couple of years I was trying to be somebody else. I don't really know how to explain it."
Wood's best friend is his catcher and the coach's son, Jonathan Colantuoni. The elder Colantuoni has coached the pair on various teams since they were 10 years old.
"I think this year the biggest change I've seen with Ryan is his maturity," the coach said. "He has great knowledge, great instincts and his maturity and leadership have really come together for him. You can see it on the field and you can see his leadership throughout the team."
Wood, scheduled to pitch for the Bulldogs (6-1) at 4 p.m. today at Forest Park (5-2), struck out 14 and walked none in a recent win over Woodbridge and is hitting close to .400. He also has shone in the infield.
"It was a joy to watch him at shortstop at Gar-Field," Colantuoni said. "He was so smooth. Some of the plays he made were major league plays, and you could see why [scouts] are looking at him as a shortstop, also. To watch a kid develop like that and work so hard, it's a joy, it really is."
-- Preston Williams