Take one quick look at Joey Wentz and you might not be able to notice any difference to his build.
The 6-foot-5, 210-pound lefty pitcher is back in town training before he reports for the spring, and on Thursday night he was inducted into Shawnee Mission East baseball’s inaugural hall of fame class.
The Lancers’ first class also included 2011 graduate Dylan Becker, and coaches Richard Kramer and Rusty Newman. Kramer coached the Lancers to the 1995 state title, which was their last until Wentz and company won it in May.
Wentz was an All-American and the Class 6A pitcher and co-player of the year in 2016 while being named the Sunflower League player of the year for a second consecutive year as he went 9-0 without surrendering a run — not even an unearned run. He allowed seven hits and struck out 104 batters in 51.1 innings.
His dominance on the mound didn’t go unnoticed as the Atlanta Braves selected him with the 40th overall pick. In 12 rookie ball starts, Wentz went 1-4 with a 3.68 ERA in 44 innings.
“First season was good,” Wentz said. “Started in rookie ball (in Florida) and got moved up to advanced (Danville, Va.) pretty quickly thereafter. Had some bumps along the way, but that’s all part of the process.”
Wentz said the adjustment from high school to professional baseball wasn’t as big as some thought. He said the game doesn’t change, as it’s still 60 feet, 6 inches from the mound to the plate.
He said the plan for the upcoming season is for him to start in low single A with the Rome Braves. He excels there, the next stop would be advanced A with the Carolina Braves in Zebulon, Ga.
Wentz only has to focus on baseball instead of having to worry about his studies.
“Right now in December and January, being home and just training and not going to school or not taking classes has been different, but I enjoy it,” Wentz said.
SM East coach Jerrod Ryherd said he thinks Wentz has shot up and inch or two, which Wentz said would be a luxury, but he won’t know until he reports for the spring. Wentz has added about five pounds of muscle to his legs and he’s looking to add a few more pounds.
“It’s pretty to hard to gain weight in the right areas,” Wentz said. “I’m trying to fill out a little bit. I’m still only 19 so I’ve got a ways to go from what I want to be.
“A lot of people don’t understand how hard it is to keep weight on during the season, especially going from high school right to playing my first season professionally. I played until early September. I got back and I was real thin; I lost a little bit of muscle.”
In terms of working hard, Wentz knows his old teammates have been putting in work. He talks to a few of them consistently.
“I’ll be away, but I’ll definitely be following from afar,” Wentz said.