Winning 100 games wasn’t a luxury for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015, it was a necessity to capture the NL Central title. And with that relentless pace, comes a price. The grind–mentally and physically on a team to reach that sort of success. and for a team that had a number of players experiencing a full season in the big leagues or an expanded role, there can be a benefit from getting that experience under their belt.
“A lot of times, you’ve got to go through it first-hand,” explained John Mozeliak of the growing pains for a younger player. “Somebody like a Kolten Wong, I think he’s going to be better for it because he’s been able to experience it.”
Wong wasn’t a stranger to the Cardinals roster, but in 2015 he made the jump of playing in 150 games from only 113 the year before.
“This process is a long process to learn when your first coming up in the big leagues,” agreed Wong. “I kind of got introduced to the big leagues playing here and there, getting days off, and then the next year I’m the everyday guy.
“You don’t realize how hard it is to play a full season every single day. I didn’t really know exactly how to take my at-bats the right way or keep myself conditioned the right way.
“It was definitely a learning experience, but I’m happy with my season. I had a good season–the majority of my numbers were better than they were the year before. Just being able to stay healthy the whole year and push through some injuries and push through some slumps that I had–I’m just happy with what happened with me at the end of the season and how I finished off the season.”
Wong’s batting average rose nearly twenty points to .262 and he also raised his RBI total by nineteen to 62 this season. His on-base percentage climbed from .292 to .321 and he hit into two fewer double plays (10).
“I definitely understand what to expect coming into this next season,” said Wong. “It’s a big thing. The first full season you play, you really hit a wall towards that All-Star break and it’s tough to kind of mentally get yourself back into it. But fortunately, I was able to talk with some guys and figure out how to get myself to stay in games regardless if it’s game 51 or game 140-something. It was a good learning experience for me, I’m happy with all that I’ve learned. I’m excited for next year.”
“I know that I want to put on a little more weight this year–be a little more stronger coming into next year and see what that does for me,” shared Wong. “Not too much muscle-bound, just at least get to like 190–I’m more of like a 185 player, so I think putting on just a couple more pounds would be a good benefit for me. Especially, you lose so much weight throughout the season so it’d be good to start off a little heavier and then finish at my natural weight.”
Besides upping his protein intake, Wong will keep his MMA training and the rest of his regular off-season routine.
“Don’t get me wrong–I love St. Louis; I love everything about it,” stated Wong. “But something about going back to Hawaii, man does it rejuvenate my mind and my body. Just being able to go back home and relaxing at the beach, enjoying that Hawaiian local food and some local music. Just realizing where I’m at, it will do something to a person. I love going back and I’m excited.”
photo credit: Charles LeClaire, Scott Rovak, Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports