Eric Wedge Born: January 27, 1968 (Fort Wayne, IN)
Graduated: Northrup (IN) High School, 1986; Wichita State University, 1989
There is no other player Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductee and Shocker head baseball coach Gene Stephenson probably wanted in that particular situation. Facing elimination after falling to Florida State in the semi-finals of the 1989 College World Series, the Shockers needed to find a way to beat the Seminoles twice in three days. The game was tied at three in the eighth inning and Eric Wedge was coming up with the bases loaded. Wedge had already driven in two of the Shockers runs in the game but the All-American needed to break the game open at this moment if the season were to continue.
Then the rain started. Rain delays can have a funny way of playing tricks on the mind of a ball player. But not this time and not for Eric Wedge. After waiting nearly an hour for the rain to clear, Wedge jumped on the second pitch he saw, driving a double and scoring two runs. The Shockers went on to win the game, setting up a winner take all semi-final match-up two days later where they once again took down Florida State to earn their spot in the 1989 National Championship.
The following day, Wedge was behind the plate to catch the final pitch of a dream season as the Shockers were national champions.
A native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Wedge was recruited to come to Wichita State to build on the program’s budding baseball success. Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductees Joe Carter and Phil Stephenson had taken the Shockers to Omaha, but had never realized the dream of winning the title. That changed when Wedge put on the black and gold catcher’s gear.
In his three seasons, the Shockers never missed the NCAA Tournament while claiming two Missouri Valley Conference titles in 1987 and 1988. As a junior in 1988, Wedge helped lead the Shockers to a College World Series appearance and a third place finish in Omaha. Wedge was selected to the MVC All-Tournament Team and all-conference performer in 1988. The best was yet to come.
The Shockers have had some memorable seasons in their storied history, but few individuals have put together a year like Eric Wedge did in 1989. Wedge played in every game but one that season and led the nation in walks with 88 and total bases with 206, while racking up team highs with 106 hits, 98 runs scored, 27 doubles, 23 home runs, and 99 runs batted in. For good measure, Wedge also had a twenty-five game hit streak during the season. Once the Shockers entered post-season play, Wedge elevated his game by hitting two doubles, one home run, and driving in ten runs all during the College World Series.
For his performance, Wedge was recognized as a first-team All-American selection and was up for nearly every major college baseball award, including being a finalist for both the Golden Spikes Award and the R.E. “Bob” Smith Award, was named the MVC Player of the Year, and was named NCAA Regional MVP. Wedge was also a first-team all-conference selection.
Wedge was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the third round of the 1989 Major League Draft and played in four professional seasons with the Red Sox and the Colorado Rockies before beginning a highly successful baseball managing career. In 2003, Wedge was named the manager of the Cleveland Indians where he spent seven seasons and was named the 2007 American League Manager of the Year after leading the Tribe to a 96-66 record. In 2011, Wedge became manager of the Seattle Mariners where he spent three seasons.
He has been honored by numerous halls of fame across the country, including the Wichita State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996, the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014, and the Missouri Valley Conference Hall of Fame earlier this year. Today, he adds another to the list with his induction to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
If you ask Coach Stephenson, he’d probably tell you there’s no other player he wants in this situation either.