06/25/11 8:00 PM ET
Cards sign first-round Draft pick Wong
By Austin Laymance and Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
Wong, the Cardinals' first overall pick in the 2011 Draft, signed with the club on Saturday and was at Busch Stadium for the Cardinals' game against the Blue Jays. Wong, whose signing bonus was reportedly $1.3 million, is the fifth first-round pick from the 2011 Draft to sign a contract.
"I told my advisor from Day 1 that I wanted to get a deal done and I wanted to get out and play, because it's always been a dream of mine to play baseball professionally and I didn't want to sit back and wait," Wong said on Saturday. "I wanted to get out there and start playing already."
Wong, a second baseman from the University of Hawaii, had an eventful trip from his home in Hilo, Hawaii, to St. Louis.
After leaving Hilo, Wong had a nine-hour layover in Honolulu because of flight delays. Adding insult to injury, his bags were lost on the way to St. Louis, and he had to make a brief stop at the Macy's downtown to get new clothes before heading to the ballpark.
It's his first journey to the Midwest, and Wong said he was impressed by the city and the Gateway Arch, which lies in the backdrop of the Busch Stadium outfield.
"You don't really think of that, especially [being] from Hawaii, you think maybe it's just a little thing. But it's huge," Wong said. "I'm so excited to be here right now and start my professional career."
Wong started 57 games during his junior season at Hawaii, and led the Rainbows in almost every offensive category. In his collegiate career, he hit .358 with 47 doubles, 25 homers and 145 RBIs. He slugged .563 and got on base at a .449 clip. He bats from the left side, and impressed scouts with his ability to hit with a wooden bat in last summer's Cape Cod League.
"I want to get the chance to show them that I'm a real player," Wong said. "I'm not someone that just had one good year. I've had multiple good years, and I've showed them that I'm a contact hitter and I'm going to put the ball in play."
Wong will meet the Cardinals' players and coaches on Sunday morning before suiting up to take some cuts during batting practice.
"I'm just in awe, right now," he said.
Wong was a catcher his entire high school career, and played center field during his freshman season at Hawaii before moving to second base as a sophomore. He knows he was drafted as a hitter, but understands he can improve on the defensive side, as well.
"I think I'm getting better. I just need the right coaching and a little more repetition," Wong said. "I have a strong enough arm where, with my fielding, if I make a mistake, I can sometimes get the guy out just having a good throw to first."
The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder will be assigned to Class A Quad Cities, and will report to the River Bandits on Monday. Cardinals vice president of scouting and player development, Jeff Luhnow, will travel to Quad Cities to watch Wong's first three games. The River Bandits clinched a playoff birth, which will give the Cards an extended look at Wong this year.
"Proximity, the league, the stadium, the manager, the staff there, everything makes it a good fit for Kolten," Luhnow said.
Wong's family and friends congratulated him upon his departure to the mainland and told him to stay humble, just like he's done his entire career. Luhnow and Wong both agree that will be the easiest thing for the Hawaiian to do.
"We did our homework, and there's no question he's got a good head on his shoulders," Luhnow said. "He's going to be a fan favorite, there's no question -- everywhere from Quad Cities to St. Louis."
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Jonathan Mayo contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.