It’s always difficult to know the reasons why baseball players were drawn to the sport at an early age.
It could be because they simply fell in love with the game once they started playing it, but in Cleveland Indians minor league infielder Luke Wakamatsu’s case, he was born into the game thanks to his family’s longtime role in baseball. Son of Kansas City Royals’ bench coach Don Wakamatsu, the young infielder quickly became a part of the game much like his father did.
“It’s definitely not surprising to me given what we do," Wakamatsu noted. "I think it’s a head start for me knowing what to do and how to act around the clubhouse and treating coaches with respect."
The middle infielder became a member of the Cleveland Indians organization after being selected out of Keller High School from Texas in the 20th round of the MLB Amateur Draft. A lot of skepticism surrounded the Indians and their ability to get him to sign given he had been reportedly seeking a lucrative signing bonus, but the Indians were able to lock Wakamatsu up as he signed a $290,000 signing bonus after the draft. The club had hopefully signed a stealthy good prospect for a moderate price.
“It’s been my dream since I was a little kid so thanks to the Indians for drafting me,” the Keller High School product smiled.
He enjoyed a strong opening start in the Arizona Rookie League in 2015. The middle infielder slashed .267/.339/.400 with one home run and 12 RBIs in 27 games in the Arizona Rookie League. His K% was a little high at 33.6%, but he didn’t play many games and it was only his first real taste of minor league ball since being drafted.
Things went a little differently the next season. He ended up hitting .232/.312/.304 in 17 games with Short-A Mahoning Valley last season, but his season was again cut short due to a shoulder injury as he ended up missing the rest of the season rehabbing his shoulder.
“It was a [not a pretty good] season last year so I did a lot of rehab stuff this off-season,” he said.
Despite having a short stint with the Scrappers, Wakamatsu did learn quite a lot in his time with the team. The biggest takeaways he took from his time in the New York Penn League was how to keep his body in shape when playing everyday and developing a consistent workout routine to make sure he was always game ready.
Having both his first two seasons cut short was not something he particularly enjoyed. In fact, it was quite an obstacle to overcome in order to make his way back and be able to play a full season at the minor league level in 2017.
“It’s definitely depressing,” Wakamatsu admitted. “Obviously, you can’t change that so I guess just working harder and making your preparation better and making sure you stay on the field has probably been my number one priority, so hopefully just sticking with that and staying healthy will get me moved up pretty soon.”
Despite the setbacks, he has not been deterred in continuing to work hard and get his body back to the shape it needs to be in order to go out and show what he can do. A huge part of his recovery process has been the art of patience. The 2015 draft pick has taken careful steps to ensure his preparation for games is better so his body will also hold up better and he won’t continue to suffer setbacks.
After an off-season of recovery, he is more than anxious to get back out onto the diamond and start playing ball again. Wakamatsu has been assigned to play with the Lake County Captains in Class-A ball to start the season. He’s most likely to have full time duties at shortstop to open the year. This will be the first time he has started a minor league season in April instead of the middle of the summer, but all he cares about is having a full healthy season.
“It’s definitely my number one priority right now to at least try and play every game, but getting my preparation better and just trying to stay healthy and eat well that’s probably going to be a high priority,” he said.
Regardless, he is ready to step into action and get things going again. He has had to overcome quite a lot of obstacles during his first two years in the Indians minor league organization. He has a lot of expectations to live up to given his high profile status as a draft pick in 2015. While injuries have set him back a bit, he still has plenty of time to improve and live up to those high expectations.