Three Rivers College assistant baseball coach Tyler Smith encouraged his second baseman, Zane Wallace, to consider playing in the Prospect League this summer if he wanted an experience similar to the daily grind of playing professional baseball.
“My coach told me, ‘If you want a chance to play pro ball this experience will tell you if you like it or not because you will be traveling and playing every day,’” said Wallace, who is a 2018 Kennett graduate.
A few days after the talk with Smith Cape Catfish General Manager Mark Hogan arrived at a college game in Poplar Bluff searching for players for his inaugural squad.
Wallace and teammate Braden Cox, who is a Scott City native, didn’t pass up the opportunity. Both committed to being part of the inaugural Cape Catfish squad this summer.
“It’s was a great opportunity to play on a team with a bunch of guys that have a lot of talent,” Wallace said. “This is probably the most talented bunch I’ve ever played with. It’s been a great learning experience this summer to see so many really good players play the game of baseball at a high level.”
Wallace has had the luxury of playing on a Catfish squad that has won often in its debut season. The Catfish are on the verge of a Prospect League championship, as they host the Chillicothe Paints in Game 2 of the best-of-three Championship Series tonight at Capaha Park. First pitch is 6:35 p.m.
At 44-17 overall, the Catfish have achieved the best record in the 13-year history of the league.
“We’ve played hard and had fun all summer,” Wallace said.
Wallace has played 307 innings at second base and one inning at shortstop for the Catfish.
“I’ve probably played in over 40 games,” he said. “I might get a day off a week, but the daily grind is just like professional baseball.”
The left-handed-hitting Wallace has put up solid numbers at the plate batting .269 with 14 RBIs. He has also collected 30 walks.
“I’ve focussed on finding more barrel when I’m hitting,” Wallace said.
Wallace, who is a middle infielder by trade at the collegiate level, has also had a few opportunities to pitch for the Catfish.
Wallace is 1-0 with a 1.22 ERA in four appearances. He has struck out four and walked one in 7.1 innings of work.
“I’ve had a lot of fun pitching,” he said. “It takes me back to my high school days of pitching. I haven’t tried to pitch like I did in high school with maximum velocity. I’ve been throwing easy fastballs so I can try to get quick outs.”
Adding to the excitement for Wallace and his teammates is the added fun of playing in front of large home crowds at Capaha Park.
“The crowds have been really good, especially for the weekend games,” Wallace said. “It’s really fun when the crowd gets going. You have people that you don’t even know cheering you on and wishing you good luck. It’s a really neat thing.”
Wallace plans on returning to Three Rivers College for his sophomore season once his time with the Catfish concludes. Wallace is looking to build on his freshman campaign at Three Rivers where he batted .270 with 15 RBIs and 31 runs scored in 158 plate appearances.
“I think playing for the Catfish this summer will definitely make me a better second-year play at Three Rivers,” he said. “I’ve really matured at the plate this summer. You see good pitchers in conference games at the JUCO level but usually, you see a good pitcher every day playing for the Catfish.”
Wallace said he hopes to play baseball at a four-year school after he graduates next spring.
“The goal is to play D-1,” Wallace said. “But if a very good D-2 school makes me an offer I would also consider it. I’m open to any opportunity that becomes available to play at a four-year school.”
Wallace indicated he would also entertain the idea of returning to the Catfish as a second-year player next summer.
“I would definitely play for the Catfish again,” he said. “It’s not that far from home. Family and friends can come to the games and watch and we can hang out after the games.”
Dustin Ward - Dunklin Daily Democrat