07/11/09 10:44 PM ET
Cardinals see bright future in Wallace
Hometown favorite ready for close-up at Futures Game
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
Just a year into his professional career, Brett Wallace isn't far from calling St. Louis his full-time home. Until the time comes for that ultimate callup, the Cardinals' 2008 first-round Draft pick is hoping his visit here now for the XM Radio All-Star Futures Game can be a bit of a test run.
"These fans, you know this fan base is so passionate about the Cardinals," said Wallace after getting swarmed by some at FanFest. "Getting the chance to be here for the All-Star Game, you start to get an understanding of how exciting it will be to play in front of them. It motivates me even more to get there quicker."
Not that it seems like the No. 13 overall pick in the 2008 Draft needs anything to push him faster. The advanced hitter out of Arizona State went straight to Double-A to begin his first pro season and stayed there for just 32 games. He's been with Triple-A Memphis -- the proverbial phone call away -- for 54 games and is hitting a combined .294 with 11 homers and 35 RBIs.
More important than his overall numbers is how well the third baseman has been making adjustments. After hitting .254 over his first 17 games, he's started to figure things out, hitting .316 in May and .351 so far in July. He's got a .375 combined OBP, showing the plate discpline that helped make him the best pure college bat in last year's class.
"Getting to Triple-A has been awesome and it's been really good for me as a player," Wallace said. "I've learned a lot from the pitchers up there and just from being around the guys who have been up and down in the big leagues. They've really been able to help me evolve as a hitter.
"You have to be smart about your game plan and what you're going to swing at. I think if you stay within your plan, eventually they have to come back to you. That's really what I've been able to do the past few weeks. I think it's been a blessing, and I'm looking forward to the next challenge."
The next immediate challenge, of course, will be competing in the 11th annual Futures Game, pitting the best Minor League prospects from the United States against the best from the rest of the World. Being on national TV, on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD at 1 p.m. CT, on XM Radio and on MLB.com Gameday, might be a big enough deal for most. Wallace has the added excitement of playing in his future home park, a place he saw after he signed, but has never actually played on.
The Future is Now
|A. Escobar||SS||MIL||1.||E. Young||2B||COL|
|T. Gillies||RF||SEA||2.||D. Jennings||CF||TB|
|A. Liddi||3B||SEA||3.||B. Wallace||3B||STL|
|B. Canizares||1B||ATL||4.||C. Carter||1B||OAK|
|J. Montero||C||NYY||5.||P. Alvarez||DH||PIT|
|N. Weglarz||LF||CLE||6.||C. Heisey||LF||CIN|
|B. Lawrie||DH||MIL||7.||T. Flowers||C||CWS|
|W. Flores||2B||NYM||8.||J. Heyward||RF||ATL|
|L. Durango||CF||SD||9.||D. Espinosa||SS||WAS|
|J. Tazawa||RHP||BOS||SP||C. Tillman||RHP||BAL|
"It's going to be exciting," Wallace said. "You feed off the energy of these fans. My goal is to be a St. Louis Cardinal and play every day here. Getting an opportunity to play in that stadium, in front of those fans, to put on an actual uniform and play in an actual game, and not just take batting practice, I think there will definitely be some jitters the first inning or so. The big thing is to just go out there and have fun with it, feed off the fans and see what happens."
Think Wallace's jitters will be bad? They likely won't be close to what's going on with his mother, Patricia. She's here with Wallace's two brothers, Larry Jr. and Jarrod, in a family reunion of sorts. The Wallace clan hasn't been all together like this to see Brett play since ASU hosted a regional tournament near the end of his junior season. She was cool and collected watching her son soak in the FanFest atmosphere. Sunday will be another matter.
"Until he steps on the field, then I'll get butterflies," she said. "I see him in the uniform, seeing him step on the field at Busch Stadium and play there is going to be awesome. We can't wait to see it. We've been waiting all year to see if he got here and we're really looking forward to it.
"It's so exciting, because this has been a dream of his since he was eight years old. Literally, he only wanted to play baseball. This has been really special. Just having my boys together again in one spot and getting his brothers to see this, they've been through it with him. It's just wonderful."
After having dinner with his family, Wallace planned to spend a little more time with them on Saturday -- the first quality time he's had with them in months -- before making sure he has enough rest for the big stage on Sunday. In an ideal world, he walks away with an MVP Award after hitting a few balls out, but Wallace will try to not do too much. More than anything, he wants to bond with the Cardinals faithful and set things up for the big man who'll be back in town Sunday night.
"My first swing might be a little big, but obviously, I need to stay within my plan," he said, smiling. "It's an exhibition game and we'll try to have fun and put on a good show.
"Being out here with Albert in Chicago, I just want to represent the Cardinals well, go out there play hard. I mostly want to have fun with it and make them proud. I really want to soak up the fans, soak up the environment, so next time, hopefully, it's the real deal for the big club. Hopefully, I can say, 'Hey, I've been here, I know what it's like,' and maybe harness my emotions a little bit."
His mom is certainly ready for when that happens.
"We have a lot of frequent flier miles, so we're saving them for St. Louis," said Patricia, a Sonoma, Calif. resident. "We're hoping soon."
Those are words of a proud parent. The son hopes for the same, obviously, but also knows all good things come to those who wait. The taste he's getting here this weekend will whet his appetite and might make it hard for him to return to Memphis, but he's aware that the fast track he's on will land him here permanently when the time is right.
"Being in this town, around these fans and in that stadium -- that's the goal," Wallace said. "Playing there, you're going to get spoiled a little bit. I just need to keep my head down and know they have a good plan for me and that if I keep working hard, it's all going to work out. I can't control when I get called up, so I'm just going to work every day and hopefully in the near future, they'll think I'm ready."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.