The Minnesota Twins have invested in another former Wilson Bruin in Chase De Jong after a midseason trade with the Seattle Mariners, and De Jong delivered the best month two-month stretch of his professional career.
“I kind of figured a trade was coming because (the Mariners) didn’t see me as a fit anymore,” De Jong said. “That was confirmed when they sent to Double-A again.”
De Jong, 24, admits that he didn’t have a good 2017 after making his MLB debut, but that he came back ready to improve in 2018. Instead of moving him to Triple-A, Seattle send De Jong back to Double-A where he was the Texas League pitcher of the year.
“I took it as motivation to prove myself as a valuable, successful pitcher again,” De Jong said.
The right-hander did exactly that by leading Texas League in innings pitched and getting named to the All-Star team. De Jong said he was ecstatic about the trade to Minnesota because the Twins have former Dodgers personal in the front office. De Jong said they had their eye on him since his time with Los Angeles from 2015-2016. He was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012.
De Jong quickly made a name for himself with the Rochester Red Wings while striking out 20 and giving up six runs in his final 24 innings before getting called up in September. He made four starts for the Twins, and picked up the first win of his career in his final appearance of the year.
“My parents were able to fly in, and it was cool to face Lucas Giolito because we were drafted the same year and played each other in high school,” De Jong said. “It was my first quality start, but it was freezing, especially for me being a Southern California kid. I think at first pitch it was 41 degrees, by the sixth it was like 38.”
The Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 12-4, so De Jong had to wait during long innings while pitching six innings with four hits, two runs, four strikeouts and a walk.
“I knew it was my last chance of the year to go get that first win, so that was really cool,” De Jong said.
Another perk of getting traded to the Twins is that fellow former Bruin Aaron Hicks was able to give De Jong expert advice about living in Minnesota. Hicks was drafted by the Twins, and traded to the New York Yankees. De Jong said the two text regularly, and play golf together in the offseason.
“Aaron is just good people,” De Jong said. “Even though now he’s a big star in a big city, he still gives people the time of day. He’s always been that way.”
De Jong and Hicks have both come back to work with current Wilson baseball players. De Jong has also helped coach local youth baseball teams.
“It’s a long standing tradition that if you get drafted out of Wilson you come back and give back to the next generation,” De Jong said. “I love to go out there and just teach them what I learned, and am still learning.”
One of the players on a local youth team made sure De Jong knew he didn’t have a good player rating in the professional baseball video games.
“I didn’t have a good year, so I could’ve told him that,” De Jong said. “But I can’t wait to find that kid and let him know that I got my first win.”