(Busch Stadium) The St. Louis Cardinals promotional calendar was represented on June 17th with Kolten Wong Hawaiian jersey giveaway, but that offered little assurance that he would be around to celebrate with the event.
“No,” said Wong, who was recalled from Memphis before Friday’s game. “I didn’t know exactly what they had planned. They didn’t tell me anything–they didn’t give me any idea of when I was going to be back up or if I was going to be back up. I just went down there with that mindset of making sure I was going to play the game as hard as I can and do whatever I can to get myself ready. It’s kind of funny how everything worked out.”
Optioned after the game on June 5th, Wong hit all safely in the seven games he appeared in for the Redbirds.
“I’m definitely glad to be back up here,” he continued. “It’s fun to be back in the big leagues but I had a great time down there. I got to play baseball and play everyday. I knew I was going to be the lineup everyday and I got to just go out there and have fun.”
Wong hit .429 (12-28) with 4 HRs and 11 RBIs. But just as importantly, he got back to having fun.
“That was the biggest thing, I wanted to get back to enjoying the game and playing the game,” he said when asked if it helped to hit a pair of homers in his first game there. “That was just icing on top of the cake, it’s kind of funny how my first day down that all happened. Baseball is just something I love. I don’t care if I’m getting paid to play it or not, I love playing this game and I’ve always loved playing this game.”
Happy as he is with the new attitude, Wong stopped short of agreeing that in hind sight being optioned was the right move for him.
“We’ll leave it at that,” he said after a momentary pause.
When he will be back in the lineup or what position he will play is not clear, but Mike Matheny did state that he felt comfortable starting Wong in centerfield or making a late game substitution with him, including left field.
“It’s not just going to be centerfield,” said the manager. “When we start a guy out there and we get a lot of action in the minor leagues, it’s just kind of assuring that he can play the outfield. If he can cover center, he’s going to be able to cover the corners.”
In starting three games in center, Wong played 28 innings at Memphis and had four chances while recording one outfield assist–throwing out a runner trying at home.
“It took me a couple days, just long toss back to back to back days,” said Wong of getting his arm ready. “I tried to make sure I had the right motion of throwing from the outfield because obviously second base, you can get away with short-arming balls and just getting it over there.”
So whether it’s in center, left, second base, or other Kolten Wong is willing and able.
“I’m just coming up here ready to play and whenever they need me–wherever they need me, I’ll be ready.”
photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports, Bill Greenblatt/UPI