McNeal on Wong: Rookie mistake, veteran response
ST. LOUIS — Cardinals rookie Kolten Wong found out how it feels to be a World Series hero Saturday night. On Sunday, he found out how it feels to make the last out in front of a sold-out Busch Stadium and a national TV audience.
Someday he will realize that he learned more from ending Game 4 with a base-running blunder than from helping the Cardinals win Game 3.
Losing makes us grow up, right? But that doesn’t make it fun.
“Roller coaster,” Wong said about his range of emotions from Saturday to Sunday. “Just have to keep going.”
With a World Series-sized media contingent in his face, Wong made no excuses for getting picked off first base by Red Sox closer Koji Uehara with two out in the ninth inning and Carlos Beltran at bat and representing the tying run. With the Cardinals down by two, Wong admitted he wasn’t looking to steal second base.
“I was being ready to go first and third,” the 22-year-old Hawaiian said. “I got too far off and he made a good throw. Just got me out.”
Not even manager Mike Matheny, his players’ biggest backer, could defend the rookie mistake.
“We had meetings early on, we go over all these guys. We talk very clearly about a very good pickoff move,” Matheny said. “He was reminded once he got on base and also reminded that run didn’t mean much. Be careful, shorten up. He got a little extra, then he slipped and the slip cost him.”
“Once I went to plant and go back, my back foot gave up and ended up going short (into the base),” Wong said.
While he made a rookie mistake on the field, he handled himself like a classy veteran off it. Here’s a guy with barely two months in the major leagues who just made a boneheaded play to end a World Series game. Then he had to go back to the clubhouse to face his teammates, who were understanding, as well as the media, who sometimes aren’t.
But Wong did not duck out of the clubhouse before the media was let in. He did not keep the media waiting. He was at his locker shortly after the media rushed into the Cardinals’ clubhouse. He stood there, looked in his questioners’ eyes and answered the same questions over and over. Finally, he turned his back on the pack, sat down at his locker and put his head in his hands.
Later, after the media departed and Busch Stadium went dark, Wong turned to Twitter to offer an apology to Cardinals fans.
All i want to say is i’m sorry #CardinalNation I go out everyday playing this game as hard as I can and leaving everything on the field.
— Kolten Wong (@KoltenWong) October 28, 2013
Based on the Twitter support that then came his way, Wong will be remembered more for how he handled himself off the field than for the miscue he made on it.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.