Wendle Leading the Scrappers and Starting Pro Career Right
By David Roberts
They say professional athletes often grow up playing several sports and it is that multi-tasking that helps them to excel. Eventually once they depart the world of high school they are made to choose a sport to enter the college ranks and it is in these developmental college years they discover their niche and find their way into professional sports. For Mahoning Valley Scrappers infielder Joey Wendle, he went about achieving his ultimate goal of playing professional baseball this exact way.
Growing up in Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, just about an hour outside Philadelphia he was a three-sport player all throughout his childhood until his graduation from Avon Grove High School. He of course held a special affinity for the game of baseball. “I was a soccer player and also a wrestler all throughout high school,” Wendle said. “Baseball was always my favorite sport. I always knew my future was in baseball.”
Following his high school playing days, he decided to focus on the sport he truly loved for college. “I didn’t get a lot of interest out of high school,” Wendle said. “I was always one of the smaller guys on the team.”
After searching around for a good fit for his college experience, he finally settled on West Chester University, a Division II school just outside his hometown. “They always had a good winning tradition,” commented Wendle. “You know good education; close to home seemed like the right fit at the time.”
During his four years as second baseman for the Golden Rams, Wendle appeared in 208 games where he clubbed 22 home runs and drove in 185 to go along with a .364 batting average. He ranks among the top 10 all time WCU players in eleven offensive categories and was named a top Division II prospect by Baseball America. Following the conclusion of his senior year where he helped lead WCU to a National Championship Joey Wendle entered the 2012 draft and was selected in the sixth round by the Cleveland Indians.
Soon after the draft, the 22-year-old Wendle signed with the Indians and was assigned to Indians short season Single-A affiliate the Mahoning Valley Scrappers to get his first taste of professional action. Through the first month of the season, he has seemed to make a relatively easy transition from college to the pros. “I think the biggest difference is the lifestyle just getting used to playing every day,” Wendle said with a smile. “I’m certainly enjoying every facet of the game at this point.”
With roughly a month of the season in the rearview mirror Wendle has certainly made it look like he is enjoying the game. Through 26 games this season, he currently possesses a .323 batting average, good for the sixth best mark in the New York Penn League. He has clubbed one home run so far this season along with 10 doubles and 3 triples on the way to driving in 16 runs. Hitting isn’t just the only thing Wendle does well; he has good plate discipline evidenced by his even rate of walks and strikeouts with 10 of each so far this season. When he gets on base he is a sure-footed runner as he scored 17 runs for the Scrappers along with stealing four bases in five attempts.
On the fielding side of things, Wendle has been a second baseman his entirety of his baseball career but this season has actually played more games at third. So far, through 23 games he has played in the field, he has manned third base 13 times, second 10, and has made five errors. “It’s definitely been a little bit of a transition, you know I have some experience playing on the left side of the infield but never consistently at third base,” Wendle said. “You know I don’t mind it as long as I get a chance to hit I’m just happy to be out there.
He has consistently been one of the better clutch hitters in the Scrappers lineup and his numbers show it, as he is a .357 hitter with runners in scoring position.“It’s just a matter of not letting the game speed up on you and adjusting to things gradually,” affirmed Wendle. “Just stay within myself, know my strengths and what my weakness are and just try to put a good swing on the ball every time.”
Wendle’s simple mindset to the game seems to be working wonders for the youngster on the field, as his early numbers are definitely the kind an organization likes to see out of a prospect. The Indians brass has noticed Wendle’s early success as the young infielder was named the Cleveland Indians minor league player of the week for July 1- July 8. During that week Wendle went 12-30 with four doubles, a triple and driving in 8 runs. “I mean obviously it’s an honor, there are some incredible players in the Indians minor league system,” Wendle said humbly. “To get it in my second or third week of playing is definitely an honor and unexpected.”
Looking ahead to the remainder of the season, the 22-year old looks to continue to do what he has been doing so far and hopes to firmly entrench himself in the Indians organization as a young player with a bright future for the organization. “My goals are to continue to develop mentally and physically,” Wendle commented. “As far as goals, number-wise I don’t have any I just try for solid contact and play the game the way I think it should be played.”
Photo: Matt White/DTTWLN photographer