On Campus ArchiveJoey Wong
Freshman phenom Joey Wong leads defending National Champs to 17-3 start
The defending national champion Oregon State Beavers are showing the nation that last year was certainly no fluke. Thanks to contributions from new faces such as frosh second baseman Joey Wong the Beavers are winning with regularity and are currently ranked #5 in the country coming into this weekend's three-game home series with University of San Francisco.
The Oregonian's OSU baseball beat writer Norm Maves probably said it best in his March 13 headline describing the Beavers pre-season performance. It's hard to avoid noticing that the fifth-ranked Beavers are actually off to a better start than a year ago.
OSU is 17-3 and has already beaten three ranked teams in Arizona State, Texas A&M and Evansville and swept traditional SEC power Georgia in Athens. Wong has been an instrumental contributor as the ex-Bend Elk has played errorless defense, is hitting .333 and has played in all 20 Beavers games.
Wong showed he belonged last summer with the Bend Elks of the WCCBL. Joey made the All-Star team and was named First-Team All-WCCBL as one of only three high school seniors competing in the league. Wong hit .310 with wood and posted a stellar .982 fielding percentage.
The WCCBL has been a breeding ground for future OSU stars. This year's team features starting infielders Drew George (.391 batting average) and Joey Wong, pitching ace Daniel Turpen (5-0, 2.48 ERA) and closer Eddie Kunz (3 saves, 2.38 ERA). All four developed in the WCCBL. George leads the Beavers in hitting and played for Bend in 2005. Turpen is a perfect 5-0 and pitched for the Corvallis Knights in 2005. Kunz has registered 3 saves and struck out 13 over 11 1/3 innings of work and 9 appearances. He pitched for the Bellingham Bells in 2005.
OSU's 2007 roster includes 13 Beavers with WCCBL experience: Erik Ammon (Corvallis Knights), Brian Budrow (Bend Elks), Brett Casey (Corvallis Kngihts), George, Greg Keim (Bend Elks), Josh Keller (Corvallis Knights), Kunz, Lonnie Lechelt (Kelowna Falcons), Jake McCormick (Bend Elks), Jorge Reyes (Moses Lake Pirates), Alex Sogard (Bend Elks), Turpen and Wong.
Joey Wong is turning heads of all ages and eras. He's that special. At an Elks game last summer, Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr observed Joey in action at Vince Genna Stadium and said without hesitation "that kid playing second base is going to be a big leaguer one day". That's high praise coming from a fellow second baseman that could hit and field a bit in his day. Pretty soon, the nation will know more about this youngster from Salem, Oregon. Check out a recent article by Brooks Hatch of the Gazette-Times featuring the frosh phenom titled "Quick transition". That transition started with wood bats; at Genna Stadium in Bend, Oregon; and with the Elks of the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League.
Former Sprague High star is right at home playing second for Beavers
By Brooks Hatch
The transition from high school shortstop to starting second baseman on the reigning national champions has gone as smoothly as a well-turned 6-4-3 double play for Oregon State freshman Joey Wong.
The state’s top 2006 recruit has made an immediate impact with the Beavers, who complete their early-season tour of the country this weekend with four games at the Texas A&M Domino’s Aggie Classic in College Station, Texas.
The 18-year-old Sprague High graduate has played in all 13 games, started 10, is batting .390 with a .500 on-base percentage, and hasn’t made an error in 54 defensive chances.
“Joey was a phenomenal infielder from the get-go, he had a lot of skills when he came in, and has gotten better,” said OSU assistant coach Marty Lees, who tutors the infielders, before a recent practice at the Truax Indoor Center. “He’s made big strides and gets better every game.
“When the ball is hit to him, it’s an out. He spends the extra time making sure he’s prepared. He’s not scared. When things happen, it looks easy because he’s in the right spot.”
The coaches love Wong’s baseball savvy, acquired in part through his close relationship with his father. David Wong was the head coach at Willamette University from 1991-2003, and has assisted at OSU the past two seasons. Joey developed rudimentary baseball skills as a toddler, and spent hours hanging out around the Bearcats’ workouts before his own career took off.
“Before I could walk I was swinging two-liters (soda bottles) around, hitting a ball,” Joey said in recounting his earliest baseball memory. “Since I could walk I’d be at Willamette, in the cages or practicing with the team.”
Few in-state players have joined the program with such high expectations. A two-time all-stater at Sprague under former Corvallis High star Brian Champion, he hit .438 as a senior and was taken by Houston in the 46th round of the 2006 draft.
He would have gone much earlier had he not clearly indicated college was his next stop. So instead of playing Class A ball in the Astros’ system, he spent the summer with the Bend Elks of the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League, preparing for his first year at OSU at the highest level available.
Wong hit .310 in 32 games, posted a .982 fielding percentage at shortstop and second base, and came into fall practice prepared to earn a starting job, not have one handed to him.
“There hasn’t been pressure from anyone else except myself,” Wong said. “I knew coming in we had to compete for every spot on the field,” as only three regular position players returned from the 2006 national-championship club. “I worked hard, got a spot, and hopefully I’ll keep playing well.
“The environment, getting used to the big crowds and hostile environments, has been the biggest adjustment. It’s a lot more intense than high school baseball, but other than that it’s been a smooth transition, a fun change.
“Playing in Georgia was awesome, having everyone root against you and then going out there and showing them what you have,” in OSU’s three-game sweep of the Bulldogs earlier this month.
“He comes in and acts like he’s been here before,” said OSU shortstop Darwin Barney, another in-state middle infielder who entered OSU with considerable hype. “Most freshmen will come in and be timid, feel like they’re not up to par.
“When Joey got with the guys we could tell he was ready to go and be a contributor. I’ve been pretty fortunate with the second basemen I’ve been with, some of the best in the nation. I don’t think we’ll be stepping down from that at all this year.”
Lees said Wong’s footwork and double-play turn at second base — dramatically different than at shortstop — gets better every day. Lees said Wong fields ground balls as well as predecessor Chris Kunda, the 2006 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, and is already exhibiting the leadership qualities generally attributed to upperclassmen.
“I can’t imagine what he’s going to do for this program by the time he’s a junior, the things the new kids will be able to learn from his work ethic,” Lees said.
Wong, who will move to shortstop in 2008 if Barney turns pro as is expected after this season, said he’s benefitted from his older teammate’s considerable expertise.
“I couldn’t ask anything better from a shortstop than Dar,” he said. “He’s helped me a lot, especially during fall ball, with the signs and getting used to D1 baseball. He’s been reassuring."
“If I had a bad day he’d say, ‘Just keep going hard, and everything will work out.’ It’s been good having him along side me.
“I just play hard, work as hard as I can, and if I do well, that’s great. If I play my hardest and I’m doing well, than that’s good.”
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