Generations meet: Holliday sharing clubhouse with dad's old teammate

March 2nd, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jake Rill’s Orioles Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The overlap was bound to happen at some point.

is now sharing a big league clubhouse (albeit in Spring Training) with a teammate who was also once a teammate of his dad: .

A 33-year-old infielder with 11 years of MLB experience, Wong signed a Minor League deal with the Orioles on Wednesday, receiving an invitation to big league camp as well. He and Matt Holliday both played for the Cardinals from 2014-16 -- Wong’s first three full seasons in the Majors and the elder Holliday’s final three years in St. Louis.

Wong can vividly remember Jackson -- who was 10-12 years old during those seasons -- tagging along with his dad and spending a lot of time in the Cards’ clubhouse.

“I just knew that he was going to be a beast, and it’s fun to see him turning into that now,” Wong said. “He was literally entrenched in the big leagues when he was that age. ... The kid was there taking BP, he’d be out there shagging fly balls. He was in it.”

Now with Baltimore, Wong has two priorities this spring. First and foremost, he wants to win a job on the 26-man Opening Day roster. He believes he can still play at a high level, and he proved that during a strong 20-game stint with the Dodgers at the end of 2023.

But Wong also hopes to share any knowledge he can with the O’s youngsters. That includes the 20-year-old Holliday, MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect who is also trying to break camp with the team -- despite having only 145 games of Minor League experience over two seasons.

A natural shortstop, Holliday is attempting to get more comfortable at second base this spring, as he’ll likely be asked to play there a good bit when he reaches the Majors (whether that’s Opening Day or later this year). Early in camp, he worked with former Baltimore infielders Brian Roberts and J.J. Hardy (both guest instructors at Orioles Spring Training) to further improve his defensive skills.

It didn’t take long for Holliday to start picking the brain of Wong, a two-time Gold Glover at second base (2019 and '20 with the Cardinals). On Thursday morning, the two were together on the field at Ed Smith Stadium during pregame warmups, with Wong doing much of the talking and Holliday doing a lot of the listening.

“Obviously, he’s a really talented defender,” Holliday said. “It’s been cool so far. Excited to keep learning from him.”

Wong believed he could help Holliday “turn a double play a little quicker and a little cleaner.” The veteran noticed that the 2022 No. 1 overall Draft pick was getting stuck on his right heel a bit during his throwing motion, so Wong gave Holliday some tips regarding posture that he learned from José Oquendo, a longtime Cardinals coach and infield instructor.

Holliday has played only 25 games at second in the Minors, but he made his first four Grapefruit League appearances of the spring at the position. Over 22 innings, he’s had nine total chances resulting in four putouts, five assists, two double plays turned and zero errors. And he’s eager for more opportunities.

“I’m feeling more comfortable. I’m feeling good with the positioning,” Holliday said. “Just making sure before every pitch that I’m prepared to do what I have to do. It’s been fun so far. I’m just waiting to get some more ground balls, because I feel like I’m just standing out there.”

It’ll get more challenging when Holliday must make plays that are less routine. But Wong already believes Holliday is up for the task.

“Absolutely. If you can play at short, you can play at second,” Wong said. “Obviously, it’s a totally different view, different angles. The hardest thing would be, for him, is the turn, because you’re turning double plays blind, basically. But he’s an athlete, man.”

While Holliday has a decade-old connection to Wong, the newest position player to report to O’s camp is more than willing to give advice to others as well.

Wong’s locker in the clubhouse is next to infielder Coby Mayo (the No. 30 overall prospect in MLB) and close to other young players such as infielder Connor Norby (the O’s No. 6 prospect), outfielder Kyle Stowers and Holliday. Early Friday morning, Wong sat in his chair sipping his coffee and chatting with both Mayo and Norby.

“That’s kind of what I’m here for,” Wong said. “Obviously, I want to play and whatnot, but also just realizing that when you get older, it’s about passing on the knowledge that you learned.”