Kolten Wong is one of a young group of St. Louis Cardinals players the team is hoping can take over as the championship core when the careers of Matt Holliday, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina wane in the coming years. He got off to a rough start, admitting the pressure of a new five-year, $25.5 million contract was affecting him, but has steadied his game lately and returned to being the team’s everyday second baseman.
He agreed to a quick Q & A before batting practice recently and touched on a number of topics, from a charity that is close to his heart to his Hawaiian heritage.
Q. You have joined up with former teammate Jason Motte’s “Strike Out Cancer” charity. Why is that cause important to you?
A. I lost my mother to cancer. I think if there was anyone on this team who wanted to be involved with that, it was me. I was the one who was affected the most by it and I have a deep passion to try and help and definitely to try and find something to help cure this disease.
Q. That must have been a terrible time for you and your family.
A. Yeah, it was right after the World Series when she passed away. That was a tough offseason going into it and then when she died, it got a lot tougher.
Q. When Motte and the Rockies were in town, you had a fundraiser at a nearby establishment. How did the fundraiser go?
A. It was a good time and we raised a bunch of money. All the guys showed up, including a bunch of the Rockies.
Q. What’s the best part about being a major league baseball player?
A. Being blessed to be situations to hear what other people have to go through and being in position where I can make a difference. By helping out with Jason’s thing, you can see some of the families who came out and are affected by it. You can see how it’s helped them and it gives them chances to go out and do things or go and seek help elsewhere. It’s just cool to see the other side. I was on that side when my mom was going through it, I was right there with her. It’s a cool thing to see and it’s cool for me because I can relate to those people.
Q. What’s the toughest part about being a major league player?
A. The fact we don’t have any free time. During the season, you are booked 24-7. Regardless of whether you want to be or not, you’re booked. It comes with the territory and you understand this is your job. Your job isn’t just on the field, it’s off the field as well. Some people separate and try to keep themselves out of this, but I wanted to be part of this, be in the limelight and help people as much as I could. It’s something if you’re going to be willing to have this kind of blessing, it comes with some kind of work.
Q. You’re one of a handful of players to play in the majors after growing up in Hawaii. Is there sort of a brotherhood of Hawaiians in the big leagues?
A. Yeah, we all keep in touch, we all talk. Any time anyone has an event in Hawaii, usually everyone shows up. It’s definitely a tight brotherhood, because there’s only a handful of us up right now. It’s definitely a cool thing to have, just being from such a small place and to make it on such a big stage.
Q. Was Hawaiian Shane Victorino, who was recently released by the Cubs, helpful to you in that regard?
A. Oh yeah, he’s like my big brother. He still keeps in touch with me. We still talk, usually on a weekly basis, seeing how each other are doing, but for the most part he’s always making sure I’m OK and just trying to help me through this process.
Q. You live in Florida. So, do you get back to the islands much?
A. Not as much as I would like to. I do get back, but rarely.
Q. Is Little League and high-school baseball coming along in terms of getting exposure from scouts in Hawaii?
A. You could say it’s coming along. When I was coming up, it was definitely on the lower end, talent-wise. Guys weren’t really taking baseball too seriously because they didn’t really like the sport or think they had a chance. After guys like Shane, Kurt [Suzuki] and me, guys who kind of came up and made it to the big leagues, all these kids realized, ‘If we work hard, we can do it too.’ It’s a cool thing to see.
Q. Did you guys know the scouts by name?
A. Yeah, you definitely knew who the scouts were. Obviously, they weren’t the high-ranking scouts you get on the mainland, but you knew that they worked for certain MLB teams, so you were kind of like, ‘Hey, if I have a good game here they could send something out and I’ll get a chance.’