August 6th, 2014
By: Cameron Varnau
The road we take to our respective careers will most likely take a few un-anticipated turns. Whether you’re an accountant, a lawyer, a salesman or for J.T. Wise, a baseball player, life throws us curve balls. The latter comes quite literally for Wise as he continues a rejuvenated pro-ball career with the Texas Rangers.
The catcher and first baseman played collegiately at Louisiana State University and was drafted in the 45th round of the June 2009 draft by the Oakland Athletics. Wise turned down the early opportunity to go professional and instead transferred to play for the Oklahoma Sooners for his junior and senior seasons. The Florida native took off in the Big 12 conference and was the 2009 Big 12 Player of the Year, and was also named the 2009 Johnny Bench award winner, which is earned by the nation’s best college catcher.
As a senior he played in all but two games for the Sooners in 55 starts with 50 as a catcher, and he registered a hit in 46 of those games. From a defensive stand point he committed only two errors, which was good for a .996 fielding percentage, and he threw out a conference-best 30 potential base stealers. He credits the competition he faced day-to-day as to why he was able to play at such a high level.
“Playing at Oklahoma was fun. We had a really great program with a lot of really great players on our team, especially during my last year. I played with a couple of guys that I think are in the big leagues now and playing in that competition was great,” Wise said.
“I played in the Big 12 and in the SEC before that so playing in that competition and getting drafted into minor league ball wasn’t much different. We faced a lot of big name pitchers so it helped prepare you for major league ball,” Wise added.
“That’s not saying the other conferences don’t have good players because we played a lot of really good teams out there like Washington State, Arizona State and UCLA. They all just generate baseball players there so the majority of the games in and outside of our conference got you ready for the competition.”
J.T. batted .297 during his four-year collegiate career and was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth round of the 2009 MLB draft after his award-winning senior season.
He spent four years in the Dodgers’ farm system and worked his way up to Double-A Chattanooga. The prospect, however, struggled in 2013 and his production dipped below what the Dodgers were comfortable with.
He was released by Los Angeles and began 2014 with the Wichita Wingnuts of the American Association of Independent Baseball. The catcher and first baseman played in 47 games for the Wingnuts and scored 33 runs on 55 hits with 42 RBI. He popped 14 doubles to go along with 12 home runs, caught the attention of Texas’ front office, and was signed by the Rangers in July 2014.
On his experience away from affiliated baseball Wise said, “I guess you don’t want to go to independent ball but you still get to play baseball and hope that you get another chance somewhere. From my perspective, it definitely humbled me and opened my eyes a little and helped me respect things more, like this opportunity that I’ve been given right now. You don’t want to take it for granted and you want to bust your butt so you can take full advantage of it.”
“The independent league wasn’t a pushover either because you’re playing against quality opponents and guys that are just out of affiliated ball and close to the big leagues,” he said of his competition. “Wichita had a good set up and the coaching staff was awesome and they definitely made it fun to play there every day.”
When he got the call and was informed that Texas was interested in acquiring him Wise said, “I really didn’t know what to do because it was my first time getting released and then resigned back on so I didn’t know what to do. I called my wife and parents and told them not to get too excited, because I still hadn’t signed my contract, and I didn’t want to celebrate before it was done. It was definitely a really cool day and it’s great seeing all the hard work you did pay off.”
Wise made his organizational debut by playing first base in one game for Triple-A Round Rock on July 8, 2014, and was then sent to the RoughRiders where he’s played since. It seems that he is closer to where he was during his first few minor league seasons as through his first 21 games with Frisco he’s hit .295 with 23 hits, 18 RBI and four home runs.
He’s made an almost instant impact in the middle of the Frisco batting order and has found a way to make it on Jason Wood’s lineup card all he possibly can, and has done everything the club has asked of him. What has the past month been for the player? “Fun,” he says.
“The coaching staff is awesome. Woody (skipper Jason Wood) and Harty (hitting instructor Jason Hart), Jeff Andrews (pitching coach), they’re all really cool guys and when I say that I mean they’re players’ coaches. They have great relationships with everybody and the entire team is awesome.”
“They’re level headed kids and being a little bit older than them I get to mentor the younger guys with some stuff and try not to let them get in their heads. For the most part it’s been fun, I’ve met some good people here, they seem to treat you right here and they made it easy for me.”
The life of a professional ball player is never set in stone or solidified by any means. In a career where there’s no guarantee of what the future holds, J.T. Wise is guaranteeing one thing. That hard work, repetition, passion and energy pays off. As for the metaphorical, and quite real, curve balls that life has thrown Wise, he plans on continuing to hit them out of the park.
Miss the last RoughRiders game? Catch up on the action or relive the highlights with ‘Riders Rewind, a daily capsule of yesterday’s big moments. Listen to previous editions of ‘Riders Rewind here.
The ‘Riders clung to a 2-1 lead in the bottom of sixth inning when home plate umpire Nathan White signaled for the RoughRiders’ grounds crew to unfurl the tarp, which initiated a 56-minute rain delay. After the moratorium, Frisco came out guns blazing and torched Springfield with seven runs as part of an 11-batter eighth inning to put the game beyond reach. Click here to read the game recap.
The call to suspend play was a preemptive one as rain had not yet begun to fall, but it happened under unique circumstances. Springfield starting pitcher Mike Mayers had just hit Patrick Cantwell with a pitch to load the bases with one out in the sixth. Manager Mike Shildt stepped out of the dugout, but instead of a signal to the bullpen, he instead hailed White, the crew chief, who in turn called for the tarpaulin.
While it seemed odd, and opportunistic, for Springfield’s skipper to invoke a rain delay, the decision had plenty of merit. The tarp was situated before the rain began and preserved the integrity of the infield, which in turn lead to a shorter delay in the long run.
The delay lasted just under an hour, but still harkened back to contest in Springfield’s last trip to Dr Pepper Ballpark that also succumbed to inclement weather. On May 25, however, the delay lasted two hours and 26 minutes before play eventually resumed (thank goodness it was a day game). A measly 56-minute delay felt like nothing at all. In both cases, the ‘Riders lead before the delay and went on to win afterwards. Springfield has brought thunderheads to the Doc in both of its trips now; the only two home rain delays have occurred with the Cardinals in town (note the difference between a rain delay and a rain out, the latter of which also transpired against a foe from the North Division).
Star of the Game: LF Nomar Mazara – 2/4, 2B, 3B, SF, 2 RBI
There were plenty of noteworthy offensive performances in a game that produced 15 hits and nine runs. But Nomar looked in no way like the youngest player in the Texas League making his Double-A debut after an outright bypass of Advanced-A. Yes, he did commit a shaky error in right field in the second inning. Chalk it up to nerves. At the plate, the 19-year-old looked anything but shy.
An impressive figure in the left-handed batter’s box at 6-foot-4 200 pounds, Nomar cracked his first Double-A pitch to deep center field in the second inning to drive in the first RoughRiders run on a sacrifice fly. In his second at-bat, the lefty sent a screamer stopped only by an impressive leaping grab from second baseman Breyvic Valera.
The ball elevated in two of his final three plate appearances as well, but this time, they landed for extra base knocks. Nomar went oppo on a double that rolled all the way into the left field corner and crushed a ball to the deepest part of center field for a triple in the eighth (it was his second time to the dish that inning). The Dominican slowed his jog on the way into third as well. He gets the nod for an impressive Double-A debut.
Honorable mention deservedly befalls Patrick Cantwell (2-for-3, R, RBI, BB, HBP), Trever Adams (2-for-5, R, 2B, 2 RBI), Teodoro Martinez (2-for-5, R, 2B, 3 RBI) and Hanser Alberto (3-for-4, 2 R, BB).
In case you missed it:
-The ‘Riders knocked off Springfield by a 9-1 final score for the second time this season. The first instance took place on May 31 in Springfield.
-Patrick Cantwell drew his 15th hit-by-pitch of the season, the most in the Texas League.
-With two singles on the night, Odubel Herrera now has multiple hits in 25 of his last 49 games. His second knock of the night came with the bases loaded in the sixth inning and two outs (just after the rain delay). In a bad break for the ‘Riders, the ball struck Patrick Cantwell in the base path between first and second, which resulted in the third out of the frame. Odubel still received credit for the base hit.
-Trever Adams extended his hitting streak to 12 games and also smoked his 32nd double of the season, second-most in the league. Trever has now doubled in 12 of his last 16 games.
-Another highly-touted prospect made his RoughRiders debut on Tuesday. Jorge Alfaro batted second as the DH in his first Double-A game, and although he was the only ‘Rider to not register a base hit, he drew two walks and scored a run.
-Gallo watch: 1/4, 2 R, SO, HBP
Everyone held their collective breath when Lee Stoppelman plunked Joey on the hand in the eighth inning. He writhed in pain, but stayed in the game and would later score from first on Martinez’ RBI double. The hit from Stoppelman contained no malice but it tautened the mood of the game considerably.
-A look at the RoughRiders home run leader board (active players only):
1. Joey Gallo (16)
2. Trever Adams (12)
3. Drew Robinson (10)
4. J.T. Wise (4)
5. Teodoro Martinez (3)
5. Jake Skole (3)
7. Chris Grayson (2)
7. Odubel Herrera (2)
9. Patrick Cantwell (1)
Listen to Keone Kela talk about his desire to pitch back-to-back nights in the San Antonio series and find out what the flamethrower did on his off day. Hint: it did not involve baseball.
Thanks for tuning in,