An outfield prospect from Maryland, LaMonte Wade was drafted in the ninth round of the 2015 MLB draft by the Twins and has had success in the the minor leagues, reaching Triple-A in 2018 as a 24-year-old. Wade was ranked as the Twins thirteenth best prospect on MLB.com’s latest list and was recently added to the team’s 40-man roster.
I had the chance to talk with Wade about a variety of topics, including his success in big league spring training last year, his take on current Twins events, and his hobbies outside of baseball.
Cole Schuessler: How do you feel your 2018 season went? What went right and what do you want to focus on improving this offseason and next season?
LaMonte Wade: I felt that defensively it went really well. I played a majority of left field, a little bit of right field, and I made some pretty good strides playing the outfield, all three positions. Offensively, I feel like I had my ups and downs, but I was still able to be disciplined at the plate and put together tough at-bats and still drew my walks. What I want to work on this offseason is just getting more consistent at the plate and hone my swing, just try to keep getting better.
Cole: I noticed that you made the jump from Double-A to Triple-A this past season. What was the biggest difference between those two levels?
LaMonte: I would definitely say the way the pitchers attack you is way different. In Double-A, they would attack you more with fastballs, whereas in Triple-A they have command of multiple pitches, and they were able to throw those pitches in any count that they wanted to. It wasn’t like 0-2, you were always going to get a waste pitch or on 3-2 you were going to get a fastball. They had confidence in throwing any pitch that they wanted and that’s what I would say the biggest difference is. In Triple-A they had better command and more confidence throwing their pitches in any count.
Cole: You have always had a reputation of being a pretty patient hitter based on your on-base numbers. How have been able to maintain that throughout your career, and what kind of approach do you take to the plate?
LaMonte: I’ve been able to maintain off of discipline and repetition, and being patient. Approach-wise it’s about going up there and putting together a tough at-bat and being a tough out. [I] do what I can do to keep the line moving and win that situation that I’m in. Just battling off pitches until I get mine, I feel happy enough taking a walk. I just keep battling until I do get my pitch, and hopefully I don’t miss it.
Cole: Have you kind of always had that philosophy growing up?
LaMonte: That really started in college and continued in pro-ball.
Cole: Going back to spring training last year, you were with the big league team and made a pretty good impression with a .441 on-base percentage. Looking forward to this next spring training, is your goal to prove that you’re ready to play at the big-league level?
LaMonte: The goal is definitely to go in and compete and keep getting better. I thought last winter went really well for me, not just from a numbers standpoint, but from all the learning that I did from all those guys up there. You go there and you’ve got [Robbie] Grossman in your ear, you’ve got [Byron] Buxton talking to you, Torii Hunter there every single day, Eddie Rosario, you got all those guys, you’re going to learn a lot in that short period of time. I thought that was very helpful, and I thought that was part of why I did really well this year on defense, a lot of that came from spring training. I just want to go to spring training and compete, give my best, and at the end of the day see where it lands me.
Cole: Do you have a coach, teammate, or mentor that has been particularly helpful to you?
LaMonte: I wouldn’t say that I have one person or coach specifically. Ever since I went to the University of Maryland, every coach that I came in contact with I’ve taken bits and pieces from them. They were all unique in helping me in their own different way and style. That’s one thing that I like about pro-ball, you get to learn from all these different coaches, hitting coaches, head coaches, and pitching coaches. I would talk to the pitching coaches just as much sometimes to find out the tendencies that the pitchers have. I can’t really name one, but ever since college, every person I came in contact with, all the way to Triple-A, and even to big training spring training, I took a little something from each of them.
Cole: Who is the toughest pitcher that you faced?
LaMonte: In college it was Aaron Nola. My first collegiate game was at LSU against Aaron Nola, that wasn’t fun. Right behind him was [Carlos] Rodon, for N.C. State, that was back when I was in the ACC. In pro-ball, it was definitely [Michael] Kopech.
Cole: What makes him so tough? His speed?
LaMonte: Everything looks the same coming out of his hand, and on top of that he is throwing 103 [MPH] and can maintain it the whole game. It’s just free and easy and it comes out of his hand the same. His changeup and curveball are hard to pick up on, and you don’t have much time because it’s on you quick, and its heavy too.
Cole: You suffered a pretty scary collision and concussion in the Arizona Fall league last year. What do you remember from that, and how has that affected your career if at all?
LaMonte: I wouldn’t say it’s affected me. It affected me in the short term and I had to be out for the rest of that fall league and couldn’t do too much at home for a little bit, I had to wait until I was cleared. I was ready for spring training. I don’t remember too much from it. I definitely don’t remember the play happening. After a couple of days, people said I was answering questions crazy [after it happened], and I don’t remember the questions that my trainer was asking me on the ground. I really don’t remember anything from the play. The only thing I can actually remember from it was when I came back to normal, when I was on the stretcher.
Cole: Was it an adjustment to getting back to playing outfield or were you able to just hop right back in?
LaMonte: I was ready to hop back in. Yeah, I had to get time off, but the next time I was back in the outfield was spring training. I don’t think I had any issues or problems getting back into it.
Cole: The Twins hired a new manager this offseason, Rocco Baldelli. Have you met him yet or what have you learned about him?
LaMonte: I haven’t met him yet, but from everything that I have read, it’s been positive things. I think he’s going to be a great fit for the Minnesota Twins. I think he’s come into a good situation. I think we’ve got a lot of good guys that are already there and a lot of good guys coming up, so I think there’s no better time to be a Minnesota Twin. I think we are ready to take the next steps, I believe the organization is ready to make the next steps.
Cole: Another current Twins event to talk about here, Joe Mauer retired recently. How much interaction did you have with Mauer? Did you meet him at spring training last year?
LaMonte: I met Joe two years ago when I was in minor league camp and I would go over for a couple of games in big league camp. I talked to him a lot more this year when I was over there in spring training. He’s a great guy. It didn’t really matter how long you were with the Twins, or if you were a rookie, or you were just coming over for camp, he treated everyone the exact same way with respect. He was very approachable, you could walk up to him and he would sit down and talk to you for however long and forget that we have to go hit in ten minutes. He’d be just sitting over there talking. He knows the game in and out. He’s one of those guys that you just want to pick his brain about everything, and he has an answer and doesn’t mind answering the questions at all. He’s a real classy guy. He did a lot for the game, a lot for Minnesota, he’ll definitely be missed, but I’m sure he won’t go too far away from the game. A baseball mind like that, he’s got to stay around in some capacity, which I’m sure he will. He’s going out on his own terms to be with his family, and he had a great career, a Hall of Fame career I believe.
Cole: I think so too. When you were talking to him, were there any specific things that you remembered in terms of pointers and tips? Or was it mostly just to pick his brain as a whole?
LaMonte: It was just to pick his brain as a whole. We were talking about the hitting side of it a lot. It’s just little details that I didn’t know about until talking to him. It’s so sophisticated, the way his mind works about hitting. The way his mind works and the way that he thinks as a hitter is just out of this world. There were so many things that we talked about it the ten to fifteen minutes we talked one day before we had to go work out and it was unbelievable, mind blowing.
Cole: Looking at your offseason this year, what do you think you need to do to take your game to the next level?
LaMonte: Just working on consistency, getting the barrel through the zone more consistently and staying in the zone longer. I’m working a lot on the pitch recognition off the machine, and I’m just trying to drive the baseball and go gap to gap, not trying to do too much.
Cole: Do you have any specific goals for next season, whichever level that you start at?
LaMonte: I don’t really look at it that way, none of that is in my control or anything like that. I’m just trying to put myself in the best situation that I can to go wherever the organization needs me to go. I’m ready to compete and see where it takes me.
Cole: I did a little research about you and saw that you grew up in Maryland and that you have a brother that also plays baseball. Talk a little bit about what that was like.
LaMonte: I like Maryland, it’s a cool place, I was born and raised here, my mom and dad were born and raised here. My brother plays in the Mariners organization as a pitcher. We both got to play for a year together in high school and at the University of Maryland which was pretty cool. We got to stay home, close, probably like an hour from the University of Maryland, our parents got to get to every home game which was really cool.
Cole: Do you still go back to Maryland every offseason then?
LaMonte: I do, my brother goes back to school in the offseason to finish and I stay with him at his apartment and we’ll workout together.
Cole: So you said your brother is a pitcher. Have you hit off him before and can you hit him pretty well? What is that like?
LaMonte: You know, I’ve actually never faced him before. He didn’t become a pitcher until after I left the University of Maryland. When I was there, he was a third baseman and a outfielder, and then he went to pitching, so I’ve really never faced him. I’ve seen film on him and I’ve heard things from other players that I’ve played with and against. I think I would definitely handle him pretty well, yeah.
Cole: When did you start playing baseball and what other sports did you play growing up?
LaMonte: I started playing baseball with T-ball. I always played basketball, coming up through high school, and really liked it a lot. At one point in high school, I actually believe I was more interested in basketball than baseball, just because of the ultra competitive one-on-one [nature]. That was fun, I played that up until I went to college, then it was all baseball.
Cole: Growing up in Maryland, who was favorite team?
LaMonte: It was the Orioles.
Cole: Who was your favorite player?
LaMonte: Adam Jones.
Cole: Fast forwarding to now, do you have a player that you try to model your game after like Adam Jones? Is there a guy that you watch video of or try to emulate?
LaMonte: I mostly liked Jones as an Orioles fan. I just try to be my own person, just go out there and try to take the best routes that I can, put myself in a good situation where I can play. I wouldn’t say that I would model myself after anyone, I don’t know who I would compare myself to really.
Cole: Do you have a favorite baseball memory overall?
LaMonte: I would definitely say when we won the Double-A Championship last year, that was really cool. Just the way we won it, how it went down to the last game, and we had a walk-off home run by Jonathan Rodriguez. That was at home too, and we were down at the time, it was just a crazy game and crazy series and that was just a great year as a whole. That whole team from the start to the finish was unbelievable. That was one of my favorite seasons so far.
Cole: What a way to cap the season. Going away from baseball here, do you have any other hobbies? I read that you are big ping-pong player?
LaMonte: After [my brother] and I work out, we like to play a little pick up basketball sometimes. Ping-pong, you are right on that one. I take ping pong very seriously. Sometimes I go with my mother to something that’s like the equivalent of an open gym for basketball, except its ping pong. You can go and play against other people, it’s pretty intense. It’s like a three hour thing that you can do. But yeah, I love ping pong. That’s probably my biggest hobby outside of baseball honestly.
Cole: That’s pretty cool. We did a interview at Twinkie Town with Nick Gordon earlier this year, you have played with him this season, correct?
LaMonte: Yeah, I’ve played with him since we were drafted, for the most part.
Cole: I was wondering if you have heard any of his rap music and what your opinion was on it?
LaMonte: [Laughs]. Yeah I’ve heard his rap music, a lot of it. We play it all of the time actually. We play it in the locker room. Nick and I have roomed together too, so we play it all of the time, it’s pretty good, I like it. I like it because he’s not talking about all this other stuff that rappers are talking about. I don’t know how he can do it without saying a single cuss word, which is even more impressive. [Editor’s Note: SOMEONE ALERT JOE MAUER.] I like it, you can play it on the radio, which is rare nowadays without every word being bleeped out. Its impressive, I think he’s got something there. He’s got a pretty good handle on it now though.
Cole: Last question. How have grown in you time in the Twins organization? What are you looking forward to as you continue your career?
LaMonte: I would say I’ve grown as a person and a teammate. A lot of that comes from being around all of these guys year in and year out. There are always older guys than me on the team, there are also guys that are younger than me. Just the way that you see the older guys handle these younger guys, just being a better teammate to everybody, and using people as a source of information. That’s how I would say I’ve grown, not just on the field, but off of the field. Just being there for guys to be able to talk to, and being able to answer questions at some point. What I’m looking forward to keep maturing and to keep adding tools, and repetition and really just honing in on my skills and getting better at them. Make the strength even stronger and work on your weaknesses to try and get them stronger.
Cole: Alright, thanks for taking your time out of your day to talk to me and good luck next season!
LaMonte: Thank you, I appreciate it, have a good day!
Thanks again to LaMonte for taking time out of your schedule to talk to us. You can follow LaMonte on twitter at @WadesWorld6.