Thought I'd get a new string of entries going so fans can read some of the things I hear from Dust Devils players and coaches.
I don't have the luxury of traveling with the team, but I do get some great opportunities to chat with the players during down time when they're at home. I've always been impressed with the character of players the Colorado Rockies bring in, and this year's bunch is no exception.
We'll kick off the series with Joey Wong, the Rockies' 24th-round draft pick out of Oregon State. Wong isn't a very big guy at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, but he plays with a HUGE heart, and Tri-City fans are going to adore this kid by the time the season is over with.
Beavers fans know what I'm talking about. Wong was an absolute sparkplug for the 2007 College World Series champions and was named to the All-CWS team that year after hitting .368 during the series along with error-free defense at shortstop.
He's already made a good impression on the Dust Devils' crew. Wednesday's night's 2-1 win over Vancouver was a great example. Wong struck out in each of his first three at bats, but he drew a hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded in the ninth inning to force in Bo Bowman at third for the game-winning run.
Bowman, a third-year pro in his second year with Tri-City, had already heard of Wong's strong reputation as a gamer.
"I told Freddie (Ocasio) when I got to third, 'This guy's a player. He can make things happen.' " Bowman said.
And Wong certainly has been that. Aside from the three-strikeout night, he's been one of the team's top hitters. He went 3-for-4 in a 12-7 win over Spokane on Sunday to raise his average to .304.
But what I think makes him special is his defense. He has amazing range at shortstop, and he'll get some chances at second base this year, too. His energy out there reminds me of a young Ozzie Smith, just the way he'll dive after a ball and make the quick pop-up for the throw.
The Dust Devils' first homestand was a fun one for Wong, who got a great chance to catch up with his former OSU teammate Ryan Ortiz, a catcher with Vancouver.
"I knew after he was drafted that he'd be headed (to Vancouver)," Wong said. "He asked me what to expect. I told him to pack a lot of collared shirts (most teams have a dress code) and that he needs to shave every day."
The pair, who were both freshman during the Beavers' title run in 2007, weren't able to socialize as much as they wanted — each team has its own pre-game routine — but they made the most of their chance to reconnect. They'll have another shot to do so when Tri-City visits Vancouver on Aug. 14-18.
"We became really good friends at OSU. It's tough to see him wearing a different jersey," said Wong, who was asked to give a highlight for the two players in college. "Definitely the World Series. We hung out after the championship game. It was a great time."