Two Asian players became a part of World Series history when Cardinals rookie second-baseman Kolten Wong was picked off at first by Red Sox closer Koji Uehara in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the World Series Sunday night.
The play gave the Sox the final out of the ninth inning for a 4-2 win to tie the series 2-2 in St Louis. It was the first World Series game in history ended by a pickoff play. The teams meet for Game 5 on Monday.
The two Asian players involved in the play are polar opposites in background and career profile. Uehara, 38, is a 15-year veteran of the Japanese and US majors who had just won the MVP award for his efficient closes during the American League Championship Series. During the 2013 season he also set a new MLB record for the most strikeouts per walk at 8.74.
Wong was the Cardinals’ first-round draft pick in 2011 but had spent his first two season with farm teams before being called up on August 16 to become a part of the Sox postseason roster. Wong’s first appearance in the World Series was in Game 3 as a defensive replacement in which he earned a hit in the bottom of the eighth inning. He had been brought into Game 4 as a pinch runner in the ninth inning.
While Uehara is likely in the final few years of his career, Wong’s star is likely to rise for years to come. In 2012, after playing for the Double-A Springfield Cardinals, he was named to appear in the All-Stars Futures game. During the rest of his 2012 season with the AAA Memphis Redbirds Wong batted .303 with 10 HR, 45 RBI, and 20 stolen bases in 107 games, earning him the callup for the playoffs.
Wong was a superstar at Kamehameha Hawaii High in Keaau. He also played football while batting .600 in his senior year to become one of two honored as the 2008 Hawaii Baseball Player of the Year. He was drafted that year by the Minnesota Twins in the 16th round but Wong chose instead to play at the University of Hawaii. He stands 5-9 and weighs 185. His father Kaha Wong had played for two years for the Class-A Reno Silver Sox.