Jodd Carter, a recent Hilo graduate, was picked in the 24th round by the Cleveland Indians in the Major League Baseball first-year player draft on Saturday, making it a family affair again for one of the late Keala Wong’s many sons.
She considered and treated all her husband Kaha Wong’s ballplayers, who attend his hitting school, like sons. She always opened the door at her house where Carter’s draft party was held, just like last year when Kean Wong was picked in the fourth round by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Along with recent Kamehameha graduate and catcher Makoa Rosario, Kaha Wong also hosted longtime coaches Shannon Ochi and Walter Silva, as well as Carter’s dad, Todd. Kolten Wong’s draft party was held on Oahu, when he was the 22nd overall pick by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011.
Rosario, who has a scholarship to Central Arizona, wasn’t drafted.
“It was good to celebrate with my coaches and keep the tradition alive that started with Kean last year, going to his house and representing coach Kaha’s organization (Big Island Baseball),” Carter said. “Coach Shannon and coach Walter have been pretty much my coaches all my life, too.”
Carter, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound outfielder, was the 728th pick by the Indians, who took Punahou catcher Kainoa Harrison one spot later. The Buffanblu senior, the son of former University of Hawaii outfielder Kenny Harrison, was projected as the top prep position player out of Hawaii.
“I’m pretty stoked. I never thought this day would come for me,” Carter said. “Since I was a little kid, I’ve always wanted to play in the bigs. No one called me before I got drafted. Dan Cox, a scout from the Angels, texted me right before I got picked and said, ‘Congratulations.’ He’s from Hawaii and we’re all close to him. He comes to showcases and knows coach Kaha.
“I’m leaning toward going pro and chasing my dream. I’m going to go all out and give it my all. Don Lyle, a scout from the Indians, called me and said I’d have to go to Arizona in about 10 days.”
Carter signed a scholarship with the University of Hawaii. The top 10 rounds of the MLB draft have an assigned draft value. The 24th round signing bonus is in the $75,000 to $100,000 range, according to a MLB scout.
Carter and Harrison attended four MLB tryouts together, and Carter pointed out that Harrison drew the most attention.
But Carter flashed one above-average MLB skill that Harrison doesn’t have: speed. Carter runs the 60-yard dash in 6.5 seconds, for a grade of 7 on the scouting scale of 2 to 8.
“I work on it all the time. I think my speed is because I have long legs,” Carter said. “Since I was a little kid, I always had speed, and I kept improving it and working on it
“Pretty much every time Kolten and Kean come back I’ll work out with them, and talk with them. We’ll do a lot of fielding and hitting and running. They give me good advice and motivation. Coach Kaha and my dad taught me everything about the game. Coach Kaha taught me a lot about the mental game, putting me in situations to be ready for anything.”
On Thursday, recent Waiakea graduate and left-handed pitcher Kodi Medeiros was drafted 12th overall in the first round by the Milwaukee Brewers, becoming the highest Hawaii prep selection out of high school.
Saint Louis right-hander Jordan Yamamoto, who out-dueled Medeiros in a 2-0 quarterfinal win at the Division I state tournament, was drafted in the 12th round, the 356th pick overall, by the Brewers.
Yamamoto was projected to go in rounds 3-5. What likely hurt his draft status, in addition to a full-ride scholarship to the University of Arizona, was his size; he was listed at 6-feet, but looks closer to 5-11.
Size also likely played a factor in Carter’s draft projection. Though he may be a late bloomer. His dad is 6-1. His uncle Dickie Carter Jr. is 6 feet but was 5-8 out of high school. Jodd’s cousin, Micah Carter, a recent Kamehameha graduate, is 6-1.
“If Jodd were two or three inches taller, the scouts would have been all over him,” Todd Carter said. “Nothing fazes him. The thing that Hilo coach Tony De Sa said is in a pressure situation he could always count on Jodd. He’s pretty calm in pressure situations and thrives in that.
“The thing he got from Kaha was discipline and work ethic, and hitting for sure. That goes without saying. I held my own in high school sports, but I have no idea where the speed came from. But from preschool, Jodd was always faster than all the other kids.”
The draft party was not only a celebration, but also a confirmation. That Kaha Wong’s hitting school at Railroad Avenue, and the success of his sons, Kolten and Kean, have stamped themselves as Hawaii’s first baseball family.
“I want to thank Kaha, Kolten and Kean,” Todd Carter said. “Because without them, none of these kids would have been looked at. They’re doing well and that’s helped other local talent.
“If Kodi and Jodd end up in Arizona, they could face each other again. It’s Jodd’s dream to play pro ball. Jodd has always proven that he can play, and now he’s getting his chance. “
Kaha Wong will host his annual Nate Trosky college showcase in December. Prior to Trosky, Wong’s showcase was run by Mike Spires, who passed away. Wong has helped land scholarships for over 45 players.
Wong is also planning to hold a December softball camp featuring Monica Abbott, the former Tennessee and Team USA pitcher, now in the pros.
The Big Island Baseball Wooden Bat League will run from the end of August to December.
For more information, call Wong at 895-4595.