Kerry Wood's talent inspired awe

Anyone who played with Kerry Wood knew that, when he eventually retired, they would immediately feel old. There was something perpetually youthful about Wood, even through the injuries and the 14 years he served in the league.

The first time I saw Kerry Wood, I understood what people meant when they said "man amongst boys." Like any major league player, you know the feeling of being the best in your town, high school, county, state, even country, but Kerry Wood came on the scene and you thought you were watching someone who would rewrite baseball history.

In 1995, I ended the Triple-A season with a lot of question marks on my back. The Chicago Cubs decided that I needed to go to instructional league in Arizona to continue my work after the season. For a Triple-A player, this is partially a test, and partially a suggestion that you're "running out of time," since instructional league was reserved mostly for newly minted minor league players, guys in their late teens or early 20s at the latest.

So one day, there was Kerry Wood at 18 years old, pitching against the Oakland A's instructional league team. Before I could actually see Wood pitch, I heard it. The catcher's mitt had no chance, nor did the professional hitters standing in the box. I had never seen anything like Kerry Wood up until that moment. His fastball looked like he was throwing snowflakes at 100 mph, and his curveball was what happened when that snowflake hit a tornado halfway to home plate.

It was truly mesmerizing to watch him pitch and I had seen a lot of good pitchers by that time in my minor league journey.

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