JUPITER, Fla. -- Only a year removed from taking the field with his University of Hawaii teammates, infielder Kolten Wong now finds himself taking defensive pointers from a 13-time Gold Glove Award winner and one of the most respected infield coaches in the Majors.
For a 21-year-old with only 47 games of professional experience, that opportunity to spend a few weeks in big league camp is exceptionally beneficial, even if borderline overwhelming.
"It's been amazing," said Wong, the Cardinals' first-round selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. "As soon as I got here, everyone brought me in with open arms. A lot of those guys have been really good to me and have really helped me get better in every aspect of the game."
Ozzie Smith and Jose Oquendo have given the top pick individualized attention, as have some of the veteran infielders on the team. Wong is not here to fight for a Major League roster spot -- he'll likely begin the year in Class A -- but for a player who has the potential to rise through the Minors rather quickly, this exposure should jump-start his growth.
Wong's greatest focus so far has been on the defensive end, and the second baseman has spent extra time improving his double play turns. As he pointed out, in college "you're not used to guys trying to take you out."
Because he signed quickly last summer, Wong has already gotten an introduction to the level of competition in the Minors. In 47 games with Low-A Quad Cities (Iowa), Wong hit .335 with 22 extra-base hits, 25 RBIs and nine stolen bases.
"They drafted me high because they knew I could play," Wong said. "I'm just out here showing them that I'm going to work hard and I can play. I'm going to take any advice that I can to become a better player and help the team."