When he’s not playing baseball, ping pong is LaMonte Wade Jr.’s game of choice. But of late he’s been busy helping the Minnesota Twins to its first division title since 2010, which they hope to clinch sometime this week on the road in the final week of the 2019 season.
“We compete against each other,” Wade told the MSR on his family’s ping pong competition. During his years growing up in his hometown Baltimore, “It was friendly competition,” he recalled. As time permits, to keep in shape, Wade noted that he often practices against a robot. “I haven’t played against it in a little bit,” he said.
The 6’-1” 205-pound rookie outfielder first joined the Twins earlier this summer and began his major-league career hitless in his first eight at-bats, but he reached base five times via walks, once by getting plunked by a pitch, and scored four runs. “I was surprised when I got the call [from the Twins promoting him from the minors],” the 25-year-old Wade said.
He was a three-time minor-league All-Star—2016 (Cedar Rapids) and 2017-18 (Chattanooga)—as well as an MLB.com Organizational All-Star in 2016. Minnesota drafted the young man in the ninth round of the 2015 draft after his junior season at Maryland.
But shortly after he joined the parent club, Wade unfortunately, dislocated his right thumb July 7 and missed 47 games. He was among 18 Twins players this season who spent time on the injured list.
After a 10-game rehab assignment back in the minors, Wade was called back to the parent club Sept. 1, and seven days later (Sept. 8), the left-handed batter recorded his first major-league hit with an RBI infield single.
Since his return, Wade has been used as a late-inning outfield replacement and a pinch-runner, and he’s had nearly 50 plate appearances. He also started 11 times. Soon he will one of this season’s Central Division champions, the Twins’ seventh title in franchise history.
“The journey here has been great,” Wade continued. “It’s been up and down, but worth it. We have a great group of guys here.”
His veteran teammates have welcomed him as if he had been with them since the season began last spring. “They really help you out and look out for the younger guys,” Wade said. “They keep you relaxed, which is really cool.”
Minnesota and New York have been jockeying back and forth as both clubs broke the MLB single-season home run record. One of them will ultimately finish with the record at season’s end. Coming into this week’s games in Detroit and Kansas City, the Twins have hit 294 home runs; the Yankees have 295 homers.
Wade joined his teammates in Minnesota’s “Bomba Squad” record season: He hit his first HR, a two-run shot off All-Star MVP Shane Bieber in Cleveland Sept. 15, and hit his second last Saturday at home against Kansas City.
Although he’s not playing as much as he’d like, Wade nonetheless is enjoying the winning ride. “As far as being in the dugout, it’s incredible,” he said of his teammates. “These guys are unbelievable.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org