On their first day in Boise last week, the Hawks held a team meeting to get to know each other.
Each player introduced himself. But when Joey Wong’s turn came up, the 27-year-old utility infielder stood up and jokingly referred to himself as their player-coach.
The Hawks already field three full-time coaches, but Wong’s joke isn’t too far from the truth. Eight years older than some of his teammates, he has seen plenty in a professional career entering its seventh season.
“Obviously, he’s been through a lot of spring trainings with us and has played at a high level,” Hawks manager Frank Gonzales said. “He’s played winter ball a couple years in Australia. Joey brings a lot of experience to us on the field. We hope he gets through his injury.”
Wong started the season with the Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes, hitting .197 through 21 games. But he strained his left hamstring in May. He’s struggled with both of his hamstrings in his professional career, and he said he reaggravated the most recent injury a couple times, leading the Rockies to send on him a rehab assignment to Boise.
“They just said they wanted me to come here, get some ABs, get back in games, get it feeling right before they had me go back to Triple-A or Double-A or wherever they want to send me,” Wong said.
But his wealth of experience adds a veteran touch to a roster filled with 13 players making their professional debuts when the Hawks host the Tri-City Dust Devils at 7:15 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Stadium.
Wong began his pro career with the Dust Devils before climbing the ladder to Triple-A this season. He also spent the past two winters in the Australian Baseball League, winning the championship series and all-star game MVP awards, as well as a Gold Glove, in 2013.
He said no teammates have come up to him yet with any questions. But the season hasn’t start yet, and he remembers the veterans on his 2009 Dust Devils squad showing a nervous rookie the ropes and answering questions he didn’t want to take to coaches.
“I’ve been in their shoes, some of them just coming out of the draft and some of them it’s their second year and they’re still new to the organization,” Wong said.
“It’s fun to be around them, get to know them and answer any questions they may have.”