(BaseballStL) – It may have a felt like forever to fans, but Kolten Wong rose through the ranks about as fast as a position player can.
The 22-year-old was taken in 22nd overall in the 2011 draft. He had originally been drafted by the Twins in 2008 out of high school, but he chose to attend the University of Hawaii instead.
Once in the Cardinal organization, he flew through the minors. After half a season in Quad Cities (the Cardinals A club), he started 2012 in AA Springfield.
After posting a .287 average with nine homers, 52 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 126 games, he leapt another level- starting 2013 in Memphis.
His first 107 games saw him hit .303 with 20 stolen bases and 10 bombs. His speed also netted him eight triples.
“I was trying to finish off strong,” he said in the clubhouse Thursday. “Last year I fell off a little bit, and I wanted to finish strong and show the Cardinals I’m ready to be up here.”
Before he had a chance to finish strong, he got the call to the big club. His performance was enough to earn him a call up to St. Louis, and a Major League debut against the Cubs.
“I was actually sleeping,” Wong said of his call-up moment. “[Ron Warner] told me I was getting called up... and I looked at him like ‘oh alright, you’re joking with me.’” He said his first instinct was that he was in trouble for something. When Warner told him it was for real, he had precious few moments to prepare.
“He left, and I started talking to my parents for awhile, and then the tears started coming out.”
Wong left less than 12 hours later.
His first three games didn’t see a hit in eight at bats. In fact, he started out 0-10 before he broke through with an infield single.
“I hit a couple balls hard right at people and that’s when I knew that’s how it’s going to be up here,” he said. “This is the big leagues, everyone up here knows how to play... to get hits you’re going to have to earn them.”
He beat out another later in the game to get his first hit, and his first multi-hit game in one day. To add to his inaugural total, he also stole his first and second base.
Since coming to St. Louis, Wong is 5-for-18 with a double and three stolen bases.
In the field, he was tested quickly. In 34 innings, he has eight put outs, 12 assists and three double plays. He has no errors in his 20 chances.
In just six games he has made an impact, and each moment of the game, he looks to move toward permanence.
“Once I got here, I told myself I don’t want to go back down,” he said. “I’m going to make sure I can do whatever I can to show these guys- don’t put me down. Don’t let me go back down to Memphis. It was a good time there, and I’m excited to be here.”