It was just two years ago that Joey Wong's defensive prowess was taking the nation by storm in the College World Series at Omaha. First, it was the highlight-reel double play turn in the opening game against Cal State Fullerton, then it was four more games of errorless defense to go along with a 7-for-19 (.368) performance at the plate.
Now, two years later, Joey has begun his professional career in the Colorado Rockies organization.
Wong, the Salem, Oregon native, batted .262 for his career at Oregon State over the course of three seasons. He batted .288 his freshman year, before his average fell to .244 in his sophomore year, then slightly recovered to .255 this past season.
Wong was drafted in the 24th round (721st) of this month's MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Rockies. Coming out of Sprague High School, Wong was selected in the 46th round by the Houston Astros but elected to continue his baseball career at Oregon State--and won a National Championship in his first year at OSU.
Wong was Oregon State's fourth selection in the 2009 draft. He followed Ryan Ortiz, who was selected in the sixth round, and Jorge Reyes and Kraig Sitton, both 17th round selections.
We can assume that there were many factors influencing Joey's decision to turn professional, including his Oregon State coaches and his family members. His father David lettered four years in football and three in baseball at Willamette before being drafted by the Kansas City Royals. He played five minor league seasons, twice being named to all-star teams.
While Joey's father knows the ropes of minor league baseball and was likely impacting Joey's decision heavily, Pat Casey felt that Wong should stick around to improve physically-- and if he did, Casey felt Joey wouldn't be a late-round pick.
Joey's leadership on and off the field will be missed by the Oregon State program, as well as his silky smooth defense and timely hitting. Joey will likely be replaced by Carter Bell at shortstop, who will join John Tommasini in the double-play combination.
It's fair to argue that Wong could have improved offensively with another year at Oregon State, but he now hopes to do so in minor leagues, as that seems to be the one thing that could hold back his ascension through the ranks. Plus, Joey obviously got enough money to outweigh the risks involved with playing another year at Oregon State and taking his chances in next year's draft.
Wong played in his first professional game on Monday night, going 2-for-4 with a run scored in the game. He scored the go-ahead run for his team, the Tri City Dust Devils, after hitting a leadoff single in the top of the ninth inning. Tri Cities would go on to defeat Boise 7-5 in the game.
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Previous 2009 Baseball Performance Reviews: Ryan Ortiz