It requires an investment of time and patience to play minor league baseball. The investment becomes magnified when a player is willing to reboot and learn a new position in order to achieve his dream.
Carolina Mudcats catcher Tony Wolters is doing just that. The native of Vista, CA was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the third round of the 2010 and began his career as a middle infielder.
By Laurel Wilder
When asked what their favorite thing is about the game of baseball, one would expect a player to talk about making a seemingly impossible out, or driving in the game winning run. For 20-year-old Tony Wolters, however, the smell of fresh-cut grass during batting practice is far more special than any play he could make.
“It’s a great smell!” Wolters said at the Lake County Captains’ Hot Stove Dinner. But, all smells aside, Wolters admitted that he truly enjoys “taking ground balls, hitting…I love the practice [before the game].”
The importance of practice is one thing the infielder from Vista, CA, knows all too well. Selected by the Cleveland Indians in the third round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Wolters played with the Indians’ Arizona League and in Mahoning Valley before spending his 2012 season with the Carolina Mudcats. Wolters posted fairly solid numbers during his first two seasons, batting .211 with two stolen bases during the five games he played in Arizona in 2010, and posting a .292 AVG with 19 SB in 2011 with Mahoning Valley.
When you lose 94 games in a Major League Baseball season, you aren’t a contender and you probably aren’t very close. In the Indians’ case, maybe they know they are farther away than they’ve previously alluded.
“Our current mix of guys and how things came together didn’t work,” Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti said at his end of the year press conference. “We need to reexamine ways to be better moving forward, but I still continue to feel strongly about the nucleus of players we have. We need to do a better job of finding the right mix around them. Where that takes us, we’ll have to see, but that’s a process we’ll go through this winter.”
The building of that new mix of players might have begun quietly on Saturday afternoon, when the Indians traded right-handed reliever Esmil Rogers to the Toronto Blue Jays for infielder Mike Aviles and catcher Yan Gomes. Rogers was 3-1, with a 3.06 ERA in 53 innings with the Indians in 2012. He seemed to stabilize himself as a big league reliever after three bumpy seasons as a starter with the Colorado Rockies. Rogers credited his turnaround to a better ability to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters with his high-octane fastball.
By Steve Eby
Everyone has big life decisions to make. But for the Tribe’s top second base prospect Tony Wolters, his decision was separated by over 2,400 miles.
“After I got drafted I didn’t know if I was going to go to school or not,” Wolters said.
Wolters attended Rancho Buena Vista High School, about 40 miles from downtown San Diego, California. He was given a full scholarship from the University of San Diego, but before he was able to attend a class, he was drafted in the third round of the 2010 Amateur Draft by the Indians.
“I waited to sign and it gave me a lot of time to weigh my pros and cons,” Wolters said. “I was really comfortable with USD because that’s where my sister went and it’s only about 45 minutes from where I live.”
The lure of playing professional baseball can also be a bit misleading. Most players that play professionally never make it to “The Show.” Playing in the minor leagues is a grind and the patience that it takes can take its toll on a lot of players. “I had a lot of friends that got drafted too,” Wolters said. “I got to talk to them and pick their brains about what pro ball is all about. I knew what I was getting myself into.”