It didn’t take long for J.B. Wendelken to get outfitted with Oakland Atheltics’ apparel. He didn’t have to go far, either.
The former South Effingham High School star got his new togs from current A’s outfielder — and fellow SEHS alum — Josh Reddick.
Wendelken was traded from the Chicago White Sox organization to the Athletics last week, a move that came as a shock to young right-hander.
“You wouldn’t expect something like this,” he said. “I didn’t think Oakland was looking our way. It was very exciting for me.”
Wendelken also has been put on Oakland’s 40-man roster, so he and Reddick — who played at the same high school, played for the same junior college and were also drafted by the same major league organization six years apart — could be major league teammates this season.
“It’s something you don’t expect to happen — two guys who played for the same high school, played at the same college and got drafted by the same organization,” said Reddick, who completed his fourth full season in the big leagues and seventh overall. “It’s something you don’t ever think about it.”
Reddick said as soon as he heard Wendelken was coming to Oakland as part of a deal that sent third baseman Brett Lawrie to Chicago, he made sure the word got out.
“I think that was the fastest he’s ever responded to me, when he became my teammate,” quipped Reddick.
Reddick and Wendelken haven’t had much opportunity to talk about the trade and about the Oakland organization — the Mustangs’ annual winter hitting camp was the first they had seen each other since the end of the season — but Reddick was quick to extol the advantages of spring training in Arizona.
“It’s the travel,” Reddick said. “Florida, you’re closest travel is an hour and a half. In Arizona, your farthest travel is 45 minutes. I get to drive to every game and when I’m done in the fifth, I go to the house. I’m still home by 4.”
Reddick is enjoying the offseason and is glad not to have to face any surgery or rehabilitation in his down time. He played in 149 games with 20 home runs and 77 runs batted in. His .272 batting average was his best for a full season in the big leagues.
“For the first time in three years, I’ve had an offseason where I’m healthy and I can go play golf,” he said. “I’ve been trying to promote as much as I can for my charity.”
Both Reddick and Wendelken, who this season pitched the most he has as a professional, agreed down time was important and needed.
“It’s huge,” Reddick said. “You get to recharge your batteries. I’m telling these kids this morning, you play for nine months in a row, you want to come home and unwind.”
Said Wendelken: “It is the longest season I have had. The time off is just a necessity. You want it and kind of need it, but you have absolutely have to have it. It’s nice to unwind and relax. It took a little while before I got into the offseason. I’m trying to stay healthy enough to work out and get ready.
“Right now, it’s looking like golfing is my best friend.”
Wendelken went 6-2 with an earned run average of 3.20 between his stops at Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. He struck out 69 batters and allowed just 50 hits in 59 innings.
As one of the youngest pitchers in Class AAA, just 22 years old, he also had to learn quickly that the hitters in the batter’s box were a little sharper than the ones he faced in Double-A.
“These guys are a lot more savvy,” he said. “They are not going to chase the stuff that starts at the bottom of the strike zone and drops out. They were waiting on one pitch. They would strike out if they didn’t get their pitch. They were looking for one pitch. And if you didn’t get there, they didn’t swing.
"I started picking it up toward the end and my numbers started coming back down to earth. You learn to adapt quick. That’s something I’ve been able to handle.”
Wendelken also played in Taiwan this fall as part of the 2015 WSBC Premier 12 tournament. Reddick also played in Taiwan just before he was traded to Oakland four years ago.
“They are trying to get baseball back into the Olympics, so this was like a qualifying tournament,” Wendelken said.
The finals were held in the Tokyo Dome, and the U.S. team won the silver medal. South Korea captured the gold medal. Wendelken was one of three American players who didn’t play after their parent organizations made roster moves.
“It was bittersweet, because I got put on the 40-man roster when I was over there,” he said, “so I didn’t get to play in the championship game.”
Reddick is busy planning for the Josh Reddick Foundation’s concert next month at Freedom Park and for the annual home run derby, to be held Jan. 16 at Sand Hill Park. Wendelken likely will open the 2016 season at Triple-A Nashville.
“I’ve got family in Nashville, so it’s going to be nice,” he said.