If you look at rosters of minor and major league teams, I’m sure you will find family connections throughout different organizations. Currently, there is one that is occurring in the between two organizations in the American League Central Division.
Luke Wakamatsu, a 20th round pick in 2015 by the Cleveland Indians, is the son of former Major League player/manager and current Kansas City Royals bench coach, Don Wakamatsu. Luke’s older brother, Jake, is a minor leaguer in the Royals farm system.
“It’s been awesome for me,” said the Lake County shortstop. “I have gained countless experience from him. I have been to the World Series’ [that] he has been to, so a lot of great experiences. I’m definitely blessed to have someone in my family like that. Definitely gave me a head start into my career now in professional baseball.”
Wakamatsu fell in love with baseball after his father was around baseball as a part of his career. Don was a professional baseball player for 12 seasons, including 18 games in the major leagues. After his playing career, he coached in different capacities in eight different organizations. He managed the Seattle Mariners for two seasons.
Luke followed his dad around the world of baseball and closely watched as he grew up. His favorite team growing up was any team that has father was a part of.
In 2015, Luke was drafted in the 20th round of the MLB Draft out of Keller High School in Texas. At first, Luke did not have much intention in starting his career out of high school.
“At first, I came into the draft thinking that I was going to college,” he recalled. “Then, the Indians ended up drafting me late in the draft. At that point, I still wanted to go to school. The Indians raised the money up a little and I finally became interested. I felt that I wanted to start my career early and I signed with the Indians.”
A $290,000 signing bonus coaxed Luke to sign his contract and become a member of the Cleveland Indians organization. After signing, Wakamatsu made his professional debut with the Arizona League Indians. In 27 games, he had a .267 average, 28 hits, three triples, one homerun and 12 RBI.
The following year, he was moved up to the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers. He played in 17 games before a shoulder injury cut his season short. He had 16 hits and nine RBI at the time of his injury.
With a small amount of experience in the professional baseball atmosphere, Wakamatsu found himself looking to continue to adjust from high school ball.
“It was difficult at first,” he confessed. “Mostly because of the playing time. The big key is in the minor leagues is to stay healthy. That’s probably going to be my number one theme for switching to professional baseball.”
This year with Low-A Lake County, Luke found himself getting consistent playing time as the starting shortstop. Being in Lake County meant that he would be playing a full season for the first time.
“I like it a lot better here than playing in Arizona,” Wakamatsu admitted. “Mainly because of the fact that the games mean something here. The weather has been kind of iffy but I’m still having a lot of fun. I’m excited to get the full season moving into the summer.”
Through 42 games so far this season, Wakamatsu has compiled 33 hits, 16 runs, three homeruns and 19 RBI. He was working on righting the ship after a slow start to the season.
“I think I had a rough start at the beginning, but I think I’m starting to get my swing together and my defense has been getting better lately as well. Sticking with my routines is the biggest key.”
Throughout the month of May, there were glimpses of Luke’s power as he hit three homeruns.
“I think the power comes with age,” Wakamatsu reflected. “Last season, I had a hamstring injury in Spring Training, so it held me back from working out and lost some strength from that. Plus a shoulder injury last season. Coming into the season healthy has been great for my strength and I think that’s the key so far.”
He is currently working though some back tightness as he was placed on the disabled list on June 1st.
With being around professional baseball for his whole life, he has gotten several pieces of advice from his dad and those around him. There’s one that he uses on a daily basis with his career:
“Not to get too hard on yourself. Got to just go with the flow, whatever happens, happens. You just have to deal with it and move on. There’s always going to be a next game so just focus on that.”