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Wong has taken late mom's advice to heart

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

ST. LOUIS -- From the outside looking in, it would've been easy to think a young Kolten Wong faced his biggest obstacles on the field.

Wong received harsh criticism as a 22-year-old rookie in 2013, after his first taste of the big leagues ended in unceremonious fashion. Pinch-running with St. Louis down two runs in the ninth inning, Wong was picked off to end Game 4 of a World Series the Cardinals would eventually lose in six to the Red Sox. His baserunning snafu became one of the series' indelible moments.

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ST. LOUIS -- From the outside looking in, it would've been easy to think a young Kolten Wong faced his biggest obstacles on the field.

Wong received harsh criticism as a 22-year-old rookie in 2013, after his first taste of the big leagues ended in unceremonious fashion. Pinch-running with St. Louis down two runs in the ninth inning, Wong was picked off to end Game 4 of a World Series the Cardinals would eventually lose in six to the Red Sox. His baserunning snafu became one of the series' indelible moments.

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Video: Must C Conclusion: Uehara's pickoff makes Sox winners

"That was nothing compared to what I had to deal with that offseason," Wong says now.

Back home in Hawaii, the challenges were bigger than baseball. Wong's mother, Keala, had recovered enough during a long battle with cancer to travel to St. Louis to see her son play in the World Series. But that winter, her condition worsened. Her death sent the young second baseman into an emotional "spiral" that he's fought for the majority of his six-year MLB career.

Wong recounted the journey Friday, choking back tears in a powerful video story for The Players Tribune. Major League teams will celebrate Mother's Day across the baseball world on Sunday. Few players have a more heart-wrenching story than Wong.

"She told me to continue to play my game -- 'Don't worry about the pickoff. Go out and have fun,'" Wong says in the piece. "She was basically telling me what I need to do for the rest of my life, in a few words. Going through that, and losing her at that time, it rocked me."

Now one of the top defensive second basemen in baseball, Wong pays tribute to his mother every day with an elaborate and intricate arm tattoo. He said he felt her presence an October after his infamous baserunning mistake, when he won Game 2 of the 2014 National League Championship Series with a walk-off home run against the Giants.

"That was one of those when you hit and it and you think, 'OK. I know you're [still] there,'" Wong told the Tribune. "If there is anybody out there in similar situations, know things get easier. They don't get better. They get easier. Eventually, you find a purpose."

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com.

St. Louis Cardinals, Kolten Wong