Wong hustles, and flows
Freshman's solid at second base, sprints everywhere else
CORVALLIS - The latest chapter in Joey Wong's athletic career is going well enough that teammate Mitch Canham is pushing for some expansion.
'Somebody ought to write a book about him,' Canham says of Oregon State's freshman second baseman. 'The way he plays the game is the way everyone should. You watch him during infield/outfield or in pregame: He lays out and gives everything he has. He takes every single ball seriously. He's an intense little player.
'The only time I've seen him jog is maybe when he's late for a class. Every other time, he's sprinting. Watch him run out a ball at first. No matter where he hits it, he sprints. If he makes an out, he sprints back to the dugout. He is what people should strive to be like, what a real baseball player is.'
If Wong is the reincarnation of Charlie Hustle, that's a good thing for Oregon State baseball, considering the amount of talent he possesses.
Coach Pat Casey - whose fourth-ranked Beavers are 20-3 and have won nine in a row heading into this weekend's three-game series at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo - has started the 5-10, 160-pound Wong all season at second, despite a 1-for-15 batting slump over the last two weeks that dropped Wong's average to .301.
'Joey is as solid as any player we've had here,' says Casey, in his 13th year as OSU's coach. 'We're using him because we wanted to be as good defensively as we could be and thought he could handle the bat.
'He is a slappy guy with occasional power - he is going to hit some home runs - and he'll get better when he gets stronger. He has such a great feel for the game. He's always in the right place at the right time. Very rarely are you thinking, 'We have to teach this guy to play the game.' He already knows - a lot like Barney.'
The reference isn't to Deputy Fife or the purple dinosaur. It's to shortstop Darwin Barney, the junior from Southridge High who was the preseason Pac-10 player of the year and, with Canham, provides the leadership on this OSU team.
Wong has the same sort of wherewithal on the baseball diamond as Barney. And Wong is appreciative that veterans such as Barney and Canham have made it easy to blend into a lineup that needed lots of help from its newcomers.
'I love it here,' says Wong, who quarterbacked Salem's Sprague High to the state football championship his junior year. 'The coaches make it fun, and the upperclassmen have made it real easy for the new guys to come in and feel comfortable. Quite a few of us have been able to come in and contribute right away.
'It's been a little difficult. I've had some bad games. We've seen some really good pitching, and the speed of the game is way better than in high school. These guys are at a whole different level.'
One of the benefits to playing at Oregon State is Wong gets to hang with his father, David, OSU's first-base coach. Joey committed to the Beavers before his dad joined the coaching staff, but says, 'It's been nice to get to spend more time with him.'
'Joey has played well so far,' David Wong says. 'He's handled himself well, gives us solid defense and has executed with the bat. He's been around baseball a long time; he knows what's going on. You don't have to tell him a whole lot.'
Wong is attempting to fill the shoes of last year's second baseman, Chris Kunda, a postseason batting hero who was the Pac-10 defensive player of the year. Wong has played errorless ball thus far.
'They are both phenomenal defensively, and Joey carries a great bat with him,' Canham says. 'He's a perfect replacement. I would take him playing second base for us over anybody in the nation. He has talent and a good head on his shoulders.'
Wong isn't resting on his laurels, however.
'We have so many guys who can play,' Wong says. 'If you're not playing well, you could be out of the lineup the next day.'