As Head Coach Ryan Dupic wrote prior to senior day, the 2021 Concordia Baseball team would have been in “big trouble” without Trent Wood. His arrival came at just the right time for an offensively powerful squad that needed an innings eater near the top of the rotation. In one of the twists that has characterized his career, Wood made a hard turn that he hadn’t necessarily planned on.
Late in the process of putting the final touches on the 2020-21 roster, Dupic learned about Wood’s desire to seek options outside of Mount Vernon Nazarene University (Ohio), a school from which Wood earned his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering.
“It felt like things aligned in that Trent had some connections with guys that I happened to know too,” Dupic said. “It created a faster process once we became aware of Trent’s interest. We didn’t necessarily have to go about an elongated process. That allowed it to be a smoother transition. Adding him to this team has been a big deal and we are super glad to have him here.”
Wood would tell you this is part of the plan that God had for him. Born and raised in Troy, Ohio, Wood remained close to home when he first chose Mount Vernon Nazarene, an institution located roughly two hours from Troy. Wood spent five years there before making the transition to Concordia, a not-so insignificant 900 miles from Mount Vernon, Ohio. Under Dupic’s tutelage, Wood has become a rock in the rotation while fine-tuning a wipeout slider (60 strikeouts in 46 innings) that he says may even be his best pitch. Previously, Wood’s only experiences within the state of Nebraska had been at travel ball tournaments in Omaha.
Dupic already had an idea of what the Bulldogs were getting from a baseball perspective. Wood has the unique distinction of having appeared in at least one game in each of the past six collegiate baseball seasons (2016-21). Before finding his way to Seward, Wood’s most successful season came in 2017 when he went 7-1 with a 3.05 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 79.2 innings. A year later, he was sidelined by injury and underwent Tommy John surgery.
As Wood will tell you, he entered college fully expecting to have a role as a position player. He started his career at Mount Vernon Nazarene as a center fielder before making the switch to the mound. As a member of the Cougars, Wood enjoyed a positive experience. There was little thought of pitching elsewhere until COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 season.
Said Wood, “I wasn’t planning on using (the extra year of eligibility) because I was planning on playing with the (Traverse City) Pit Spitters and seeing where that took me. There wasn’t anything wrong with Mount Vernon, I just knew I needed a different scenery. I got to talking to Dupic and I really thought he was a good guy and was impressed with everything that’s been going on with the program. I said, ‘why not?’”
So here he is pursuing a master’s in business administration while lifting up a rotation that really needed another arm. The decision to finish his collegiate baseball career was more than just a personal one for Wood, who got married to Cassidy in the summer of 2020. She made the journey with Trent and currently works in Lincoln. Together they took a leap of faith. Wood did not even visit campus before giving his commitment to Dupic.
Wood earned the trust of Dupic quickly enough to start the second game of the season. In that outing, Wood fanned seven hitters in three shutout innings. He’s become a key part of a team that is 29-6 overall and ranked 22nd in the NAIA. Before this season, Concordia Baseball had never appeared in the top 25 of the official coaches’ poll.
The 6-foot right-hander, who can reach 90+ miles per hour on the gun, admits he did not know exactly what he was getting into. Says Wood, “I wasn’t really sure what my expectations were. I’ve enjoyed my time out here. I’ve enjoyed the team and the opportunity to learn and grow.”
Wood would be happy with a career in mechanical engineering, but his love for baseball will never fade. That’s why he still plans to pitch this summer as part of the Lafayette Aviators of the West Division of the Prospect League. Should the coaching bug bite, Wood believes his time at Concordia will serve him well.
“I don’t know if Coach Dupic notices, but I pay attention when he talks to other guys,” Wood said. “I’m not sure if I want to go into coaching, but I’ve been listening and watching him develop guys and just taking notes. I’ve learned a lot just by doing that. Coach definitely knows his game and knows how to develop guys. It’s been a great experience from that aspect.”
There’s a mutual respect that has grown since Wood joined the program back in the fall. Says Dupic, “To have Trent and be able to give him the baseball and know that he can take the ball each week and compete has been huge. It wasn’t like we were plugging someone who didn’t have experience. He’s been through this process before. Having starting pitching you can count on is so incredibly important.”
Wood’s journey is proof that one need not worry about scripting out every aspect of life. Joked Wood, “I really wanted to play the field, but look at me now.” No, Wood has not asked Dupic about getting in the batter’s box. He’s a pitcher following his dreams. That’s why he’ll continue firing fastballs and sliders this summer. As Wood put it, “I’m hoping something comes out of that – if not, we’ll see where God takes me.”