11/10/2016 7:40 AM
Dalton Wheat was a steady force for the T-Bones in 2016. (File photo by John Ellis.)
Editor’s Note: Shannon Foster of tbonesbaseball.com wrote the following during the 2016 season, but it was never published. After we ran a story recently about the Miami Marlins purchasing Dalton Wheat’s contract, several people sent emails and asked through social media if Wheat was wearing work gloves. Indeed, he was. Below is Foster’s story, with a few post-season edits. So, as the late, legendary radio broadcaster Paul Harvey would say, “And now, the rest of the story.”
By SHANNON FOSTER
As Dalton Wheat steps into the cage for batting practice at CommunityAmerica Ballpark on this hot Monday afternoon, one thing stands out above all else: the batting gloves.
The color stands out first from the rest of Wheat’s T-Bones teammates. While most wear gloves that are black or white or some form of red, Wheat’s are more of the color of, well, wheat. They’re tannish on the outside with white on the palm. And they’re obviously not traditional batting gloves. It looks more like Wheat’s about ready to go to work on his family’s farm in Chanute, Kan., instead of preparing for a baseball game.
Are they a reminder of working hard? Is it some type of superstition? Not exactly.
“In college I let my buddy use a pair of my batting gloves and I had a pair of work gloves in my truck so I used those,” said Wheat an Augusta, Kan., native who started his collegiate career at Butler Community College before finishing at Emporia State University in May. “I loved the work gloves and I never went back. They last two to three times longer than batting gloves, and they’re only about $10 a pair.”
The farm ethic and gloves fit Wheat’s on-field persona. The term “working hard,” to Wheat, means giving 100%. That’s what he gave the T-Bones since signing as a rookie on June 16, when the team was in Wichita.
In his professional debut that night, Wheat had two hits and one RBI. That wasn’t a fluke. He went on to hit a team-high .335 in 67 games with 69 hits, 27 RBIs and 28 runs scored. A speedy outfielder, Wheat was second on the team with nine stolen bases and tied for second with three triples.
“I’m approaching the game the same as I always have,” Wheat said during the season. “You have to play hard no matter what, and you have to give it 100%. It’s you against them.”
Playing in Kansas City had special meaning to Wheat, as it meant hearing more encouragement and seeing more familiar faces in the crowd.
“I love playing in Kansas City because of the great fans and it’s close to home,” he said. “My mom and sisters (came) to games, my buddies from Emporia (came) to watch me play. It’s a good feeling to see familiar faces in the stands.”
Most importantly, playing for the T-Bones meant that Wheat is fulfilling his lifelong dream of playing professionally.
“My goal is to play as long as possible for as long as I can,” he said. “I’ve always played baseball, and also worked a job on the farm. This is my job right now, and my only job, and I love that. My job is something I love.”