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Wood's mom still gets emotional over lefty's debut

ATLANTA -- Though nearly a year has passed, the emotion has remained fresh and genuine for Carol Wood. Ask about her memories from her son Alex's Major League debut with the Braves, and you will likely hear her say, "Oh God, you're going to make me cry again."

Other than recognizing him as a highly regarded prospect who had been taken in the second round of the previous summer's Draft, most Braves fans were not too familiar with Wood around this time last year. But when he made his Major League debut against the Blue Jays on May 30, they gained a glimpse of his talents and saw how special the moment was for his proud mother.

As the bullpen door opened and her son trotted toward the mound with the Braves leading, 11-3, in the ninth inning, Carol cried, just like she had at the many other proud moments of Alex's life. Only this time, her tears were there for the world to see as television cameras focused on her reaction to seeing her son prepare to pitch in a Major League game for the first time.

"I was thinking, 'This is unbelievable,' and obviously the cameras showed exactly how I felt," Carol said. "I don't know how many thousands of people were there. But right then, it was just me and him. I just totally went into a zone, and I can promise you I didn't know the television cameras were going to be on me.

"All of the sudden it all flashed back, and I was thinking, 'That's my little boy walking across that field.'"

Though they had just finished unpacking from an anniversary celebration trip to Bermuda, there was never any doubt about whether Richard and Carol Wood would be making the three-plus hour drive from their Charlotte, N.C., residence to Atlanta to be present for their son's debut.

Because he was being used as a reliever, Alex did not know when he might pitch in his first game. But fate allowed him the honor to make his debut less than 24 hours after he had learned of his promotion and had the honor of informing his parents with a late-night phone call.

"They didn't know if I was going to throw on that first day," Alex said. "But they were probably going to stay the whole weekend just to make sure they got to see it. I know my mom was. She wasn't going to miss that."

Taking advantage of their close proximity to Atlanta, the Woods have frequently visited Turner Field over the past year to see their son pitch. They were present to see Alex start against the Giants on Sunday, and they'll be present for this weekend's series against the Cubs.

Consequently, the Braves left-handed pitcher will have a chance to spend a portion of Mother's Day with the woman he knows helped him become the pitcher and man that the baseball world has come to respect and praise over the past year.

"She drove me to all of the practices and the games," Alex said. "She's probably more competitive than I am. So she always let me know. Whenever I did well, she was extremely supportive. I had a good balance, because when I got praise from my dad, I must have done really well. No matter how I did, my mom was always, "You did a good job." She was always extremely supportive of me.

"I have to keep her from coming for every game. She'd probably be at every road game if she could. She loves it. She loves baseball. I was really lucky having her and my dad being as supportive as they were as I chased the dream, so to speak."

Having grown up the daughter of former University of North Carolina basketball player James "Jippy" Carter, Carol was not necessarily engrained in the baseball world until she saw it as Alex's passion at a young age. Her knowledge of the game expanded over the years as she and her husband made every attempt to be at any and every game.

"She's a quick learner," Alex said. "She knew the basics of the game. But she has continued to grow as I have gone along step by step my whole life. So she knows what she's talking about for the most part."

Alex remembers his parents being at most every game he pitched for the University of Georgia. But Carol still regrets that she had to remain home to tend to other parental duties when her husband flew to Los Angeles for the first road start of their son's collegiate career.

As Alex outdueled Gerrit Cole and beat top-ranked UCLA in that memorable start, Carol kept a pen and pad by her side to keep track of the 11 strikeouts her son recorded in that seven-inning effort.

"It was just me and the computer," Carol said. "If any of my neighbors had come in and seen me, they probably would have thought I was a nut. I get emotional."

During the year that has passed since his mother showed her emotion, Wood has established himself as one of baseball's top young pitchers. But his mother is equally as proud of the way he has handled himself both on and off the field.

"Just watching him with his energy and calmness, that is who he is," Carol said. "He just knows how to handle himself. That is what makes me the most proud, seeing how he handles himself on the field and off the field, and his humbleness. He's just the same person he's always been."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for

Atlanta Braves, Alex Wood