Even though he’s one of the top hitting shortstops in the country, Keller’s Luke Wakamatsu said the biggest focus for him isn’t the mechanics of swinging the bat.
The senior is hitting around the .500 mark and is regarded as one of the top players in high school. Much of his batting technique has been honed by his personal coach over the course of his career, father Don Wakamatsu, who is the hitting coach with the Kansas City Royals.
“I think my mentality at bat is a lot better this year,” he said. “I’ve got more confidence and I’m a lot stronger.”
Wakamatsu acknowledged he’s fortunate to have a father who’s involved in the MLB, and he’s had the ability to use him as a coach as he’s grown up.
“I still learn from him,” Wakamatsu said of his father. “He’s helped me be the player I am today.”
The biggest piece of advice, though, has been taken more recently, as Wakamatsu has matured and entered his senior year at Keller.
“The improvement in my game (from previous years at Keller) has been the mental side,” Wakamatsu said. “I used to get angry with myself and this year I haven’t gotten as angry. My dad has taught me to keep my head up. I’m not going to get a hit at every at-bat. Be patient.”
Keller head coach, Rob Stramp said that Wakamatsu has made great progress in his hitting from his sophomore season.
“He’s always been a good hitter, but he can really now swing the bat from both sides this year,” said Stramp.
No doubt, being able to hit effectively from either side of the plate takes not just talent and ability, but mental focus, as well.
Wakamatsu said he started switch-hitting when he was about 12 at the suggestion of his father and he’s worked hitting both right- and left-handed ever since.
“Being a switch-hitter, I have to hit (in practice) twice as much,” Wakamatsu said. “It’s all mental, and I have to keep with it and hit from both sides every day.”
The advantage to hit from the opposite side of the pitcher’s throwing hand is that it helps the batter with off-speed pitches and it’s easier to track the ball coming off the pitcher’s hand, Wakamatsu said.
Stramp also said Wakamatsu is “as good a shortstop as any across the country.”
Defense, Wakamatsu said, comes naturally for him.
Regardless of whether it’s hitting or fielding, Wakamatsu accepts the leadership role of being a senior.
His advice for the underclassmen is consistent with what he uses to improve his own game.
“I pass along the mental side,” Wakamatsu said, noting he gets plenty of requests from younger players who know his father has big league experience. “I see a lot of underclassmen get mad at themselves, so I try to pass along the same things I’ve learned.”
Knowing how to master the mental side of the game helps him make the most of his talent.
As a senior, Wakamatsu has realized his final year is rapidly flying by.
“The season has gone way too fast,” he said, noting the Indians had just five regular season games remaining heading into this week.
“The goal is to win district and we’ve been playing with a lot of confidence. We feel like we’re the best team in the district and if we play to our potential, we should go undefeated,” he said.
Keller was 9-0 in the district before playing three games this week.
Besides the playoffs being on his mind, Wakamatsu has signed to play at Rice next year. But that opportunity may be superseded should he be selected high enough in the MLB draft this summer.
“To me, it’s a win-win situation,” Wakamatsu said. “Rice is an awesome college, but if it’s the right pick, I’d love to go (play in the majors),” he said. “We’ll wait and see.”