Wieters possibly played last minor league game in ToledoWritten by Nicholas Huenefeld | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Wieters will always remember Fifth Third Field.
Norfolk’s starting catcher was told during the game against the Mud Hens on May 26 that he would make his major league debut for the Baltimore Orioles on May 29 versus Detroit. He celebrated with his teammates in the clubhouse at the end of the game, which they won 9-5.
“It feels great; it’s a dream I’ve always had since I was a kid,” he said.
Wieters is the reigning minor league player of the year, according to Baseball America. He has been a nightmare for pitchers since being drafted fifth overall in the 2007 first-year player draft.
In his first professional season at Class-A Advanced Frederick, he hit .345 with 15 homers and 40 RBIs in 69 games. After being promoted to Double-A Bowie, he hit .365 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs in 61 games. This year, he is hitting .305 with five homers and 30 RBIs in 39 games for Norfolk. During the aforementioned game against the Mud Hens, Wieters went 4-4 with a walk and four RBIs.
He is widely considered to be the top offensive prospect in baseball, and possibly the top prospect overall.
Wieters is rare in that few players get the attention he receives. The Web site, mattwietersfacts.com, boasts outrageous things Wieters can do. One saying on the site is that even atheists believe in Matt Wieters.
“It’s guys getting on their blogs and having a good time,” he said. “It’s fun for the fans in the organization. It’s always a good feeling [to hear things like that], but you still have to go out and work hard.”
For Wieters, baseball is a passion and has been ever since his dad, Richard, a former minor league baseball pitcher, taught him the game. Wieters perfected his swing in a batting cage at his home in Goose Creek, S.C. In many facets, his passion for baseball can be compared to Bennie “The Jet” Rodriguez, the fictional character in “The Sandlot.”
“I’m somebody who loves playing the game,” Wieters said. “Growing up, I always wanted to be a baseball player. I dreamed of it ever since I was little.”
With his father’s instruction, Wieters has always had a good eye at the plate. His on-base percentage in the minors is .519. In 2007, at Georgia Tech, he reached base safely in 55 straight games. Wieters said it’s something that he has always done.
“It’s just something where at a young age I really worked at trying to get a good pitch to hit, and if I didn’t get it, I would try to be patient and take my walk.”
It’s his talent and love for the game that makes Wieters a prized signature for autograph seekers, as well. He has even signed several life size cardboard cutouts of himself.
“I get people popping out of cars and getting here six hours before the game starts,” he said. “It’s different, but the fans are what we play this game for.”
Norfolk manager Gary Allenson said he thinks Wieters might struggle at first in the major leagues, but will overcome it.
“He’s got a lot of tools and he’s got a really good head on his shoulders. He’s a switch hitter who knows how to hit,” Allenson said. “Also, he’s a pretty good catcher with a quick release and there’s not too many of those guys walking around. So, barring injury, he’s going to be a really good major league player.”
Although he has finally made it to the majors, Wieters said he only focuses on continuous improvement.
“It’s getting there and staying there. The game will let you know whether or not you can still play because it will get you out of it fast if you can’t play. So, I want to stay as long as possible.”