In 2003, an 12-year old boy from Hilo, Hawaii played in the Cal Ripken World Series, the first held in Aberdeen.
Tonight (Friday) that now 23-year-old Major League Baseball player, Kolten Wong, will play in another series in the Baltimore area, a three-game series as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals battle the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards tonight, Saturday and Sunday.
The Cal Ripken World Series, the 15th overall, also will begin tonight and run for the next eight days, before a World Series champion is crowned Aug. 16. All games will be played at the Ripken Experience powered by Under Armour complex in Aberdeen.
Wong, a first round draft pick (22nd overall) in baseball's 2011 amateur draft, made his Major League debut, Aug. 16, 2013.
Wong, the Cardinals 5-9, 185-pound second baseman, who was unavailable by phone in St. Louis on Wednesday, did answer a few questions by email through Chris Tunno, communications specialist with the Cardinals.
"I remember playing at that [Ripken] stadium and it was the first time I played in a stadium as we didn't have fields like that in Hawaii," Wong said.
For the 2003 CRWS, Ripken Stadium was scaled down for the then Major 60 series. The series has since changed to a Major 70 format and is played in Cal Sr.'s Yard, a two-thirds replica of Baltimore's Camden Yards.
"I recall getting to meet Cal and Billy Ripken and thought that was really cool," Wong said.
Quite often, participating series teams have been treated to an Orioles game as part of the off day fun, but Wong's not sure if he'd been to Camden Yards before. "I have no idea. I think we may have, but it was a long time ago," Wong said.
In that 2003 series, Wong and his teammates captured the United States Championship, beating a West Linn, Oregon club, 5-3, behind Jeremy Crivello's two-run, walk-off home run.
Wong was a utility player of sorts for a Hilo team, managed by his father, Kaha Wong.
Kolten Wong played a little bit of everywhere. He pitched, caught and played infield and outfield. For his play, Wong was named to the All-World Series Team and the United States All-Defensive Team. Wong was also honored with the Sportsmanship Award for American Division teams among the United States pools.
Wong and the boys from Hilo were beaten in the World Series title game, 13-2, by a dominant national team from Mexico.
For Wong, it was a memorable time.
"It's still up there, any time you have a chance to play in a World Series at any level it's special," Wong said in reference to where playing in Aberdeen stands in the line of other accomplishments. "I'll always have the memories of playing with my friends that summer."
Wong has already played in another World Series, too, getting an official at bat in last year's MLB series against the Boston Red Sox. Wong, who appeared in two Series games, hit a single in his lone at bat. Wong also stole a base. The Cardinals fell to the Red Sox in six games, 4-2.
Wong also played in five postseason games last year against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers. Wong was 0-for-5 in those five plate appearances.
Wong played his high school baseball at Kamehameha High School in Honolulu before taking his talents to the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu. Wong was drafted out of high school in the 16th round by the Minnesota Twins in 2008, but did not sign.
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Wong also has some advice for this year's series players: "Have fun! Enjoy every moment of it because chances like that don't come along very often," he said. "It's something you will remember the rest of your life."