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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tony Wolters staying ‘home’ for Aflac game

Jim Ecker        
Tony Wolters looks like he’s played shortstop all his life, a natural with great instincts and a terrific glove, but he’s been a shortstop for only three or four years.

“I started playing shortstop when I was 13 or 14,” he said.

And before that?

“I played catcher,” he said. “I think my coach saw how I had quick hands and stuff, so he just put me in the infield to see how I’d do. And I did good.”

Wolters, heading into his senior year at Rancho Buena Vista High School in Vista, Calif., has developed into one of the top young shortstops in the country, able to make all the plays look easy with his smooth actions on the field, whether flipping the ball with his glove to the second baseman for a force play or grabbing the ball bare-handed on the run for a quick toss to first.

“I love shortstop. It’s so much fun,” he said. “I like second base, too. You get a lot of balls there, and you have tough plays. It’s a good position to play. I like it a lot.”

Wolters has been selected to play in the Aflac All-American High School Baseball Classic on Aug. 16, and it will be a special treat for Wolters because the game will be played at PETCO Park in San Diego, home of the Padres and about a 45-minute drive from where he lives.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “It’s awesome playing at stadiums like that. Amazing.”

Wolters is a Padres fan – “When they’re playing good,” he said – and has attended numerous games at PETCO Park. He’s never played there, however. “I’ve sat in the seats, though,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot. It’s crazy, thinking I could be there. I’m really excited to play at PETCO.”

He figures he’ll have “probably 100” relatives and friends at the Aflac game, cheering him on.

“It will be awesome,” he said. “I think it’s going to be kind of emotional.”

Wolters starred at shortstop at the WWBA 17U National Championships in Georgia this month, helping the ABD Bulldogs Red team win the title in the 192-team tournament. In one memorable game against the Canes Orange team, Wolters made a string of excellent plays for the Bulldogs and Chad Pinder made a series of outstanding plays for the Canes in a game of “Can You Top This?”

On one play, Pinder took a couple of quick steps to his right and robbed an ABD batter of a line-single to left. The batter, by the way, was Wolters. “I tip my hat on it,” said Wolters. “That was a really nice play.”

He enjoys watching other good shortstops in action.

“I’ve seen a lot of good shortstops, I know a lot of good shortstops,” he said. “It makes me better, it makes me work harder.”

Wolters said one of his favorite players is New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, one of the best fielders in baseball. Reyes plays with a flair and appears to enjoy himself on the field. Wolters does, too.

“In the infield, I try to have fun out there, try to have a rhythm, try to do what I think is right,” he said. “You have to be really thinking if you’re in the infield. You have to be thinking about the play that’s going to happen, because there’s always going to be one that’s right on top of you.”

Wolters will get to mingle with a Hall of Fame shortstop at the Aflac Classic. Ozzie Smith, one of the greatest shortstops of all time, is one of the honorary captains for the game. “It’s going to be cool to meet him,” said Wolters.
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