Come Thursday when the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs square off on Opening Day, University of Hawaii legend and Kamehameha-Hawaii alum Kolten Wong will officially embark on his 10th MLB season.
Wong is 32 games away from becoming the fourth player with Hawaii ties to play in 1,000 career games, joining Mike Lum, Kurt Suzuki and Shane Victorino as players from the 50th state to accomplish that feat.
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Wong, who was picked by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft, made his MLB debut in 2013 and played for the organization through the 2020 season. During his time with the Cardinals, he played in a World Series and won two Gold Gloves.
Despite his individual accolades, Wong has been fortunate enough to play for competitive teams that strive for a title every year, which is why his 2021 season was a disappointment. In his first year in Milwaukee, the Brewers went 95-67 and won the NL Central but eventually fell to the Atlanta Braves, the eventual World Series champions, in the NLDS. Heading into 2022, Wong only has one goal in mind: A World Series title.
“We’re super excited,” Wong told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “I mean, obviously you look at our pitching staff. It’s one of the tops in baseball, and then you look at the guys we have around that diamond, it’s impressive. Getting a guy like (Andrew) McCutchen and (Hunter) Renfroe this offseason has been huge for us and you just start to see the team get built together and now having that DH, another bat, it’s going to be huge for us so we’re excited. We know that we have a good team but we know what happened to us last year wasn’t the finish we wanted so this team came with a chip on our shoulder ready to go and I think we’re excited for opening day.
“I’ve had years in this show already. I’ve played in this league and understood this league and seeing how hard it is to get to a World Series, it’s just one of those things where you just know that it’s the only goal now at this point. … Now I just want to get to that point. I got there early in my career and having that sour taste in my mouth, so you know I really want to get back.
“If I can get that, that would be icing on the cake for me so I’m excited. I hope this team, we can pull together, stay healthy all season and do something special. It would be cool to bring a World Series trophy back to Hawaii.”
Below are the other players with Hawaii ties who had big league invites during MLB spring training:
Isiah Kiner-Falefa, shortstop, New York Yankees (Mid-Pacific)
Josh Rojas, utility, Arizona Diamondbacks (University of Hawaii)
Ka’ai Tom, outfielder, San Francisco Giants (Saint Louis)
Kurt Suzuki, catcher, Los Angeles Angels (Baldwin)
Kean Wong, utility, Los Angeles Angels (Waiakea)
Rico Garcia, pitcher, Baltimore Orioles (Saint Louis and Hawaii Pacific)
Jordan Yamamoto, pitcher, New York Mets (Saint Louis)
David Freitas, catcher, New York Yankees (University of Hawaii)