Like father, like son: Wendells ready for Draft

July 6th, 2021

NEW YORK -- Much like his father, Wyatt Wendell is the proud owner of a necklace made from genuine animal parts, including bear claws, turkey spurs, elk teeth, deer antlers and other such paraphernalia -- “pretty much all the same stuff that I had,” said Turk Wendell, who made the fashion famous during an 11-year Major League career.

“He kind of started it off and I added some ideas to it,” Wyatt said. “When I first made it, it didn’t have any antlers on it. I wanted to have antlers on it, so I added some.”

Unlike his father, Wyatt doesn’t wear his necklace during games, mostly because collegiate baseball rules tend to prohibit that sort of thing. But he does spike the rosin bag whenever one is available, and he’s developed a few other superstitions of his own. Perhaps if Wendell follows in his father’s footsteps in the professional ranks, Major League protocols won’t be so strict as in the college game.

To that end, both Wendells will be occupied during the 2021 Draft, which is scheduled to begin Sunday in Denver. Turk Wendell, the fifth-round pick of the Braves in 1988, will serve as the Mets’ representative at the event, relaying phone calls from the Mets’ war room in Florida. Wyatt Wendell will join him on the trip, with hopes of being drafted out of Indian Hills Community College in Centerville, Iowa. The younger Wendell recently committed to pitch at Purdue University following two seasons at Indian Hills.

“I know the hard work he’s done,” Turk Wendell said in a telephone interview. “I’ve said it so many times, I wouldn’t just blow smoke up his butt if I didn’t think he had the ability to go forward and beyond playing college baseball. I would just say, ‘You know what? You should just concentrate on getting an education.’ But I guess it’s even better having somebody like me talking to him that’s been there and done it, because I know what it takes. And I know he has what it takes.”

Wyatt was too young to remember watching his father pitch during a career that ran through Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Colorado, and he had no way to play the old VHS tapes that Turk had lying around their home in Iowa. So the Mets gave Wyatt a highlight reel of his dad’s top moments with the team from 1997-2001. That included the elder Wendell’s three full seasons in Flushing, where his 3.20 ERA over 245 innings, his playoff contributions, and of course his outgoing nature and superstitions combined to turn him into a fan favorite.

“It was so cool to see the fans chanting his name, and then he comes in and spikes the rosin and everybody goes nuts,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt is not the same type of pitcher as his father, relying more on finesse than power. But he features plenty of natural movement, which he used to strike out 72 batters over 65 innings this season for Indian Hills. Much like one of his other pitching idols, Greg Maddux, Wendell relies on a two-seam fastball, as well as a cutter, a changeup, a curveball and a slider.

Although Wendell isn’t committed to turning pro if a team selects him, he’s interested to see what develops in the Draft. Turk Wendell, in turn, is eager to see how far his son’s baseball journey can go.

“To be honest, I’m not really nervous at all,” Wyatt said. “It’s one of those things that if it happens, it’ll be a dream come true. I’ve been dreaming of this for a lot of years now, and really working really hard to get it done. But if it doesn’t happen, I’ve got a great school to go to, Purdue, and it’s just going to be another great experience there. So either way, it’s a win for me.”