Kolten Wong on joining exciting Mariners: ‘I just wanted to be a part of it’
New Mariners second baseman Kolten Wong grew up in Hawaii a fan of the Giants and Braves, but he always kept an eye on the Mariners. Friday afternoon he learned he would join the Seattle club, and do so at what he believes is the perfect time.
“You are seeing how young that team is, you are seeing the pitching staff that team possesses and the run you made in the playoffs,” Wong told Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy on Monday. “I think everybody in the big leagues was playing attention to it. The excitement that is around that team, I just wanted to be a part of it. I was really, really excited when I found out I was traded to Seattle.”
Wong, who comes to the Mariners in a trade from Milwaukee, is hoping his stay in Seattle will be longer than the one year he has remaining on his contract. While he had yet to be given the specifics of his role, he understands the role he most likely will fill.
“Looking at what Dylan Moore did last year and the platoon that we could possibly have, I’m excited for that,” said Wong, who would be the left-handed half of that timeshare. “For me, I just want to come to this team and do my part. Whatever that is, whatever they want me to do, I just want to be there to help some of the young guys through the early stages of big league baseball but also be the guy to fill in the spots that the M’s need, whether coming in to play defense late or playing against only righties. Whatever I have to do, I’m excited to just come in and help this team.”
The excitement and enthusiasm could be heard in Wong’s voice. If there were any negatives associated with a possible less-than-full-time role, they perhaps were muted by the sunshine and 82 degree weather on the beach near his home in Hawaii that Wong was calling from.
“I like to come back and get grounded,” he said. “Get back to my roots, restart. Back here I enjoy my time, training with my dad – I always do that to start the offseason. I will work my way back to Arizona in a couple of days and really get after it, fine-tune.”
Training in Hawaii for baseball is different. Growing up, Wong didn’t have many of the facilities that were more common on the mainland. He did have a father, Kaha, who was devoted to coaching his son, however, with drills that included swinging an ax.
“Growing up in Hilo, we didn’t have amenities and things that kids in California and Arizona had,” he explained. “My dad used to call it old school training but I just figured when you are grabbing an ax at 10, 11 years old and doing that, it’s pretty impressive. As you got older you started feeling like you were getting stronger and stronger, and you were like, OK, this is working.
“Dad always had little tricks up his sleeve. Even today he still has a few things he shows me and it’s, ‘Oh, wow.’ Definitely old school but it’s working.”
The work indeed paid off as Wong was selected by the Cardinals with the 22nd pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. Coming up in the Cardinals system, Wong credits Jon Jay, Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina as influences in his upbringing in the organization. He also saw the big league debut of pitcher Marco Gonzales, who he has been talking to in recent days about his new club. By all indications, he should be a good fit.
“I talked to him a little bit about the culture and what it is all about,” he said of Gonzales, who has been with the Mariners since 2017. “At this point of my career, that’s all I want to do. Just constantly try and make people better, show kids how to take that next step to be a professional. I think that’s kind of my role, but also whatever I have to do. If they need me to come in and make a bunt in the ninth inning, I promise I will give everything I can to get the bunt down in the ninth inning. There’s nothing with me, I don’t really have an attitude. I just like to go out there and compete and give it my all and see how it goes.”
You can listen to the full interview with Wong in the podcast in the player below.
More on new Mariners 2B Kolten Wong
• Mariners acquire 2B Wong from Brewers for Winker and Toro
• Wyman & Bob react to Mariners trading Winker and Toro for Wong
• Drayer: What Mariners are getting in Kolten Wong, what’s next in offseason
• Brewers writer shares insight into new Mariners 2B Kolten Wong’s play