Wong continues talks with Twins
Mike Trapasso is optimistic. So is Dan Cox.
And Kolten Wong can't lose.
Especially with the news that hard-throwing Kauai resident Kirby Yates plans to bounce back to UH and star California high school pitching recruit Lenny Linsky dodged the draft, the University of Hawaii baseball class of 2008 might not be made or broken on Wong's decision to go pro or to school.
But it certainly wouldn't hurt UH's cause if the Minnesota Twins organization decides the versatile left-handed hitter from the Big Island isn't worth a few thousand more dollars in bonus money.
Yesterday, the Star-Bulletin's high school Co-Position Player of the Year said he and his family had turned down the Twins initial offer, which Wong said was made Monday and was in the $50,000 range (normal for the 16th-rounder he is). Cox, the Twins' area scout who happens to be an Aiea High graduate, went back to the club for more cash.
Wong wants to go pro, but he also knows that three years in Manoa -- where Trapasso and others predict instant stardom -- would likely make him a better pro prospect. And college baseball in Hawaii can be more fun than long bumpy bus rides between bush league villes.
But play for pay has its obvious attractions, too. And Cox said he thinks Wong is mature enough to handle the potholes, even though he won't turn 18 until October.
"I wanted to make sure he was ready not just physically and talent-wise, but emotionally, too, so I got to know the kid," Cox said. "I am 100 percent convinced he's got what it takes. He's got the best make-up on my 99-player draft list."
To "clear up any doubt," Cox had Wong swing against Twins farmhand Ian Mopas, an Iolani grad.
"Ian had it up to 93 and Kolten was turning on him," Cox said. "He went gap-to-gap and put everything in play."
He's not big, but he's fast and tough, and has the accumulated baseball knowledge of a kid who has played catcher all his life and grew up the son of Kaha Wong, a slugger who played at USC with Mark McGwire.
Kolten said it's pretty cut-and-dry: If the Twins come up with the difference, he goes pro. If not, he goes to UH.
Does that mean he's leaning toward UH?
"Not really. In a way, yeah, if we don't get the money," Wong said. "And Coach Trapasso has been one of the coolest guys ever, he's patient, and he told me go with what my heart tells me."
Wong could step right in and start at second for the Rainbows and spell Landon Hernandez behind the plate (assuming the two-year starting catcher doesn't take whatever the Detroit Tigers throw at him as a 50th-round pick).
But that would be next spring. For a lot of 17-year-olds, the idea of playing next week, and for money, is a lot more attractive.
Kolten Wong said it has to be the right amount, closer to $100,000 than $50,000.
"They made an offer but it's not at the amount we want. We told the scout (Cox) how much we want and we'll see if they will give us how much we want," he said.
In other news, Rainbows junior right-hander Matt Daly has come to terms with the Blue Jays, who drafted him in the 13th round. Two other UH players, both seniors, agreed to pro contracts since the draft: infielder Jon Hee (Red Sox) and center fielder Brandon Haislet (Phillies).