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New-look Potomac Nationals begin Carolina League title defense
Destin Hood signed with Alabama in 2008,
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BY RICH CAMPBELL
WOODBRIDGE--Matt LeCroy knew someone already had ordered the pizza, so he got an idea.
The new Potomac Nationals manager was throwing batting practice on Wednesday to Washington Nationals outfield prospect Destin Hood. When Hood got down to his last swing, LeCroy announced that he'd buy pizza for the entire team if Hood homered on the final pitch. In it came, and out it went. Sensing an old-fashioned, post-practice pizza party in their future, Hood's teammates cheered as the ball sailed high into the trees beyond the left-field fence at Pfitzner Stadium.
"LeCroy, I don't know, man," a skeptical Hood said through a smile yesterday. "I think it was a joke."
Hood was right, LeCroy later confirmed. But that's OK. What matters most to both is that Hood appears ready to take the next step in his development, starting with the P-Nats' season-opener today against Lynchburg.
By honing how he prepared for games last season, Hood showed signs of being the player the parent club envisioned when it drafted him in the second round in 2008. Building on that progress at a higher level in his second full-length professional season could put him on a faster track to Washington.
"He's a kid who understands what it's going to take," LeCroy said. "I believe he's starting to get it."
Hood, 21, headlined Washington's 2008 draft class after first-round pick Aaron Crow and the club failed to agree to terms. The two players were polar opposites.
Crow was a proven college player who won Big 12 pitcher of the year honors at Missouri. Hood, on the other hand, turned down a football scholarship to Alabama to convert from shortstop to outfielder in the Nationals' farm system.
Washington's minor league coaches quickly learned just how raw Hood was. His transition to the outfield was bumpy.
"He still ran post patterns and out patterns in the outfield," said Tony Tarasco, Washington's minor league outfield and base-running coordinator.
"Back in the Gulf Coast League [in 2008], my angles were probably pretty bad," Hood said yesterday. "It's funny to think about how bad they used to be."
Funny only because he's made significant progress in two seasons since then.