In 2011, Springfield's Kolten Wong became the first second baseman drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the opening round in 25 years. But the University of Hawaii product might not be where he is without the intervention of his former college teammate and current double play partner, Greg Garcia.
"My first year in Spring Training they asked me about Kolten when he was still in school and I told them, 'Great baseball player, great guy, hard worker,'" Garcia recalled. "So I knew they had interest in him. Then I saw he went in the first round and I couldn't be happier for him."
Garcia split time between second base and shortstop at Rookie ball in 2010 and during two Class A stops last year, but was glad to slide to short full time at Springfield to make way for his one-time college teammate. And Wong was glad to see a familiar face when he arrived at Double-A to start this year after just 47 games with Quad Cities last season.
"The first day we got to Springfield we were kind of like, 'Wow, we're actually going to get to be able to play with each other on the same field,'" said Wong, the No. 4 prospect in the Cardinals system.
Both players said it didn't take long to get back in the groove.
"Once we got back to it and got to playing, we kind of remembered how each person was and reacting to balls and what we could get to and couldn't," Wong said. "It actually helped us make a lot more plays."
Garcia hit .284 his first two seasons and played his way to Springfield while Wong was already seen as a fast-moving prospect thanks in large part to his hitting. He was impressive as MVP of the wood-bat Cape Cod League before his final year at Hawaii, then hit .378 last spring.
"I had a good summer ball at the Cape, and the year before that I played for Team USA," said Wong, whom the Cardinals took 23rd overall in the 2011 Draft. "I guess they had an idea that I could handle the wooden bat decently well to allow me to play with them and skip [Class A Advanced] like I did."
With Wong's numbers and ability, somebody was going to draft him. It just might not have been St. Louis without Garcia's input.
"I talked to him about it," Wong said. "And he said they were asking about me during Spring Training and he put in a good word, and I guess I fit what they were looking for."
Not since Luis Alicea have the Cards made a second baseman a first-round pick, and Wong hasn't disappointed. He batted .335 with five homers and 25 RBIs last year while helping Quad Cities to the Midwest League Championship. Wong has hit above .300 for most of this season.
Wong is a line-drive hitter with some power who can also bunt and work the count. And though he only switched to second from catcher and outfield a couple years ago, Wong is a plus fielder, a quality that shouldn't suffer with Garcia on the left side.
"I thought maybe somewhere down the road we might be able to be teammates again, so it's been real fun," Garcia said.
Profar, so good: Texas Rangers top prospect Jurickson Profar was hitless for the second time in three games last Wednesday but walked against Tulsa to extend his on-base streak to 41 games, best in all of pro baseball. The shortstop added two hits Thursday, two more Friday and one each Saturday and Sunday to run the streak to 45.
Ripple effect: Arkansas Travelers hitting coach Francisco Matos was promoted to Triple-A Salt Lake to replace Jim Eppard, who was called up to the Los Angeles Angels to replace Mickey Hatcher. With three seasons in Arkansas, Matos had been the team's longest-tenured hitting coach since Arkansas affiliated with the Angels in 2001.
Freiman remains: San Antonio teammates Cody Decker and Nathan Freiman were battling for the league home run lead prior to Decker's promotion to Triple-A Tucson last week. Decker and Freiman have 14 Texas League blasts apiece, while Wil Myers, recently promoted from Northwest Arkansas, has 13.