POSTED: 7:32 a.m. HST, Jun 26, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 9:46 a.m. HST, Jun 26, 2011
The St. Louis Cardinals' first-round draft pick had to endure a nine-hour layover before getting his first glimpse of Busch Stadium.
Former University of Hawaii second baseman Kolten Wong had taken a short flight from his home in Hilo, then got stuck at Honolulu International Airport after his connection was canceled due to bad weather. When Wong finally arrived in St. Louis his baggage hadn't made it, and the team had to take him to buy some clothes so he could meet the media Saturday before the Cardinals' interleague game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
“All in all, I'm just amazed to be here,” Wong said. “Maybe this is something the baseball gods want to teach me, ‘Welcome to the major leagues. I think tomorrow there might be a little jet lag.”
Wong officially signed his contract today, earning a reported $1.3 million signing bonus. Getting a chance to take batting practice before today's game is likely to give him some adrenaline.
Wearing No. 11 in the batting cage, Wong took some swings and then spoke with local radio station KTTS about the experience.
"It's everything I ever dreamed of," Wong said when asked how it felt to put on the uniform. "Just getting out there and swinging on a major league field and getting pointers from Mark McGwire, that's all you can ask for." And what pointers did the Cardinals hitting coach give him? "Just have fun, you know....relax. He said I have a good swing and just relax and when I come up here, he can work with me."
The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Wong was the 22nd overall pick out of Hawaii and made good on his draft-night statement that he was eager to sign. He'll report to Class A Quad Cities on Monday.
“I didn't want to sit back and wait,” Wong said. “I wanted to get out there and start playing. I'm just so excited to be here and start my professional career.”
Wong batted .378 last season as a junior with seven home runs and 53 RBIs in 57 games. He also was MVP of the Cape Cod League last summer and played on U.S. national team in 2008.
Jeff Luhnow, the Cardinals' director of scouting, expects Wong to quickly rise in the organization. The team placed him at their high Class A affiliate because he's an advanced college player and Luhnow said Wong potentially could start next season at Double-A Springfield.
"That short season can really make a difference," Luhnow said. "He's going to get a really good taste of what pro ball is like and by the end of the season he'll have a decent number of at-bats under his belt."