BULL­DOG SPIRIT

Win is spe­cial for Wood, who gets to share it with injured col­lege team­mate

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Andy McCul­lough

AT­LANTA — Alex Wood rolled up the sleeve of his gray t-shirt. In­scribed on the in­side of his left bi­ceps were two words: Sec­ond Chance.

Kyle Farmer, his Dodgers team­mate and for­mer room­mate at the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia, has the iden­ti­cal phrase on his own bi­ceps. So does an­other room­mate, Brett DeLoach. They wear the ink as a trib­ute to their fourth room­mate, Chance Veazey. They got the tat­toos as fresh­men eight years ago, when they were still reel­ing from an ac­ci­dent that left Veazey par­a­lyzed from the waist down.

“When you go into a sit­u­a­tion like that, you don’t know how to show what he means to us,” Wood said Thurs­day af­ter throw­ing six in­nings of one-run base­ball in a 7-4 vic­tory over the At­lanta Braves. “That was how it played out for us.”

The words sym­bol­ized the op­por­tu­nity be­fore Veazey as he re­cov­ered from his ac­ci­dent. They also com­mem­o­rated the bonds formed through their col­lec­tive grief. Veazey re­mains an en­dur­ing pres­ence in their lives: He hung out with Wood dur­ing the All-Star game last month, and he teared up when Farmer made his mem­o­rable de­but Sun­day.

Veazey vis­ited SunTrust Park on Thurs­day as the Dodgers (76-32) grinded out an­other se­ries vic­tory. The team has not dropped a se­ries since the first week of June. Chris Tay­lor hit a two-run homer and

scored three times. Corey Sea­ger reached base four times. And Wood (13-1, 2.33 earned-run av­er­age) over­came a lack of sharp­ness to de­feat his for­mer club.

Af­ter the vic­tory, Wood ad­mit­ted he felt tired, es­pe­cially af­ter trav­el­ing from the West Coast. Man­ager Dave Roberts noted a slight dip in Wood’s fast­ball ve­loc­ity. He planned to meet with Wood and pitch­ing coach Rick Hon­ey­cutt to dis­cuss Wood’s fa­tigue.

“I don’t think it’s a health thing,” Roberts said. “It’s just to try to stay ahead of things, just to make sure he has the strength to be ready for the rest of the reg­u­lar sea­son.”

Wood has wit­nessed far more press­ing ad­ver­sity than this. His col­lege ca­reer of­fered a course in how to grow through calamity.

In the fall of 2009, Farmer, Veazey and DeLoach roomed to­gether in the fresh­man dorms at McWhorter Hall. Wood lived on the floor above. They leaned on each other dur­ing the vomit-in­duc­ing, ear­ly­morn­ing work­outs of Hell Week. Farmer and Veazey teamed in the mid­dle in­field, and they dis­cov­ered Wood’s odd aver­sion to Styrofoam. “He would get mad — like, se­ri­ously, fight-you mad — if you messed with him about it,” Veazey said.

On the night of Oct. 28, 2009, Veazey was rid­ing his mo­tor­ized scooter when a car turned in front of him. He tried to stop, but the scooter slid on its side and col­lided with the car. An of­fi­cer at the scene called Ge­or­gia coach David Perno, who rushed to the hos­pi­tal and tried to com­fort Veazey, who was shocked by the di­ag­no­sis.

The crash frac­tured Veazey’s ver­te­brae and dam­aged his spine. It was the first of two hor­ri­fy­ing ac­ci­dents in Perno’s ten­ure at Ge­or­gia. Two years later, Bulldogs out­fielder Johnathan Tay­lor broke his neck div­ing for a ball. Dur­ing th­ese years, Perno leaned on play­ers like Wood and Farmer to keep the pro­gram afloat.

“It’s over­whelm­ing, the emo­tions, the ups and downs, all over the place,” Perno said. “That’s why our bond is so close. When you go through some­thing like that with peo­ple, there’s a bond that is dif­fer­ent. It’s dif­fer­ent in a lot of ways.”

Veazey un­der­went surgery on his spine at a hos­pi­tal in Athens, Ga. Then he was trans­ferred to At­lanta’s Shep­herd Center, a hos­pi­tal spe­cial­iz­ing in spinal-cord in­jury.

As Veazey re­cov­ered, Wood, Farmer and DeLoach vis­ited to show him how they had tat­tooed his name on their arms. Wood can’t re­mem­ber the spe­cific visit — he went to the hos­pi­tal so of­ten, the mem­o­ries be­came jum­bled.

As Wood re­called it, Veazey was cleared to visit the team mid­way through their fresh­man sea­son. He moved back to cam­pus the next fall. As sopho­mores, the four friends lived in a house off cam­pus. In the den, they hung a quar­tet of deer heads over a trio of tele­vi­sions, one hooked up to an XBox, an­other con­nected to a Nintendo 64. Posters plas­tered the walls.

“It was the spot where every­body came,” Veazey said. “We al­ways had the pregames and the peo­ple over. Every­body felt like it was home base for us, as friends, and for the base­ball team. There would be 40 of us over there.”

Wood left school af­ter the Braves drafted him in 2012. The Dodgers took Farmer in the eighth round of the 2013 draft. Veazey grad­u­ated in the fall of 2013 with a de­gree in risk man­age­ment and in­sur­ance. He moved back home to Tifton, Ga., where he runs a State Farm branch.

When Wood de­buted for the Braves at Turner Field in 2013, Veazey was there. He es­ti­mates he calls Farmer three or four times a week. “Chance ties us all to­gether, still,” Wood said.

Af­ter Wood made the Al­lS­tar team last month, he in­vited Veazey to join him at Mar­lins Park. Veazey spent a few days trou­ble-shoot­ing the lo­gis­tics so he could make the trip. He flew from Jack­sonville to Mi­ami late Sun­day night, then at­tended the Home Run Derby with Wood the next night. Veazey min­gled in the club­house with su­per­stars like Clay­ton Ker­shaw, Bryce Harper and Gian­carlo Stan­ton. He hung with Wood on the field as Yankees rookie Aaron Judge stole the show.

“He sent me a three-page text the next day about what it meant to him,” Wood said. His voice caught in his throat. “It’s hard to talk about some­times . . . It was re­ally amaz­ing. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to have that to share with him.”

As Wood starred in the ma­jors, Farmer was club­bing op­pos­ing pitch­ers for triple-A Ok­la­homa City. The Dodgers brought him to the ma­jors in late July, and in his first ca­reer at-bat, Farmer de­liv­ered a walk-off dou­ble against the Giants. Wood sprinted out of the dugout and tack­led Farmer. Watch­ing at home, Veazey stayed up un­til 3:30 a.m., wait­ing for Farmer to get back to his ho­tel so he could call.

“I cried a lit­tle, I laughed a lit­tle, I yelled a lit­tle,” Veazey said. “It was a com­bi­na­tion of every­thing when I saw it hap­pen.”

Veazey trav­eled three hours from Tifton to watch Thurs­day’s game. He got to see Wood pump his fist af­ter in­duc­ing a cru­cial dou­ble play in the fifth, and he got to see Farmer pinch-hit in the sev­enth. Af­ter the vic­tory, Veazey came in­side the club­house to see his best friends, the ones wear­ing his name on their arms.

“It’s been cool get­ting to bring him along, and have him be a part of this, be­cause it just feels like that’s how it was sup­posed to be,” Wood said. “And then now, hav­ing Kyle here too — it’s hard to be­lieve.”

Pho­to­graphs by John Bazemore As­so­ci­ated Press

ALEX WOOD IM­PROVED his record to 13-1 and low­ered his ERA to 2.33 af­ter giv­ing up one run in six in­nings against his for­mer team, the Braves. Wood’s fast­ball ve­loc­ity was down slightly, but “I don’t think it’s a health thing,” man­ager Dave Roberts said.

CHANCE VEAZEY, a team­mate of Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer at Ge­or­gia, goes through re­hab in his wheel­chair in 2009.

Mark J. Ter­rill As­so­ci­ated Press

EX-BULL­DOG Kyle Farmer had his big mo­ment against the Giants on Sun­day with a walk-off hit.

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