Mike Wallace: From Madison Dodger to Pittsburgh Pirate

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Kaitlyn Strada

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Mike Wallace: From Madison Dodger to Pittsburgh Pirate

On the mound for the Pirates

On the mound for the Pirates

with permission from Mike Wallace

On the mound for the Pirates

with permission from Mike Wallace

with permission from Mike Wallace

On the mound for the Pirates

Congratulations to Mike Wallace (MHS Class of 2012) for being drafted to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 30th round of the 2015 MLB draft!

 

Wallace was just four years old when his father introduced him to baseball here in Madison. Seventeen years and nine teams later, Wallace has reached his dream. He was the 30th round pick for the Pittsburgh Pirates out of Fairfield University this past June. While a member of the Amsterdam Mohawks for the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League this summer, Wallace was on his way to a game verses his younger brother Gavin’s (MHS Class of 2014) team when he received the call. Completely ecstatic, Wallace says he will never forget that moment. “When I got the call from the scout who signed me, everyone in the car knew what it was so we all went nuts. It was a great experience to share with two of my closest friends.” He further explained that seeing Gavin just minutes after the announcement was “a great and very proud moment” for them to share together. The two have played as teammates since the ages of eight and ten, and last year were lucky enough to share a Division One season at Fairfield University together.

In an exclusive interview with Wallace, I was able to understand his love for the game, what drives him, and how he is handling the pressure that comes from being drafted.

MDO: How has your Madison High School experience on the baseball team been influential to your baseball career?

 

MW: Madison High School could not have treated me any better, both academically and athletically. My four years at MHS were incredibly important in helping me grow as both a man and an athlete. I played under some spectacular coaches like Coach Librera, Coach Hughes and Coach Carroll. In terms of baseball, I was surrounded by such a good group of coaches and teammates all four years, which made the experience just as enjoyable as it was successful. Freshman year, playing for Coach Bob Chandler, was one of the most memorable seasons of my life. Having the opportunity to play under and learn from Coach Chandler was an honor and a blessing that I still cherish. Sophomore through senior year I played varsity for Coach Ennis. Coach Ennis was instrumental in helping me develop as a college caliber pitcher. We had a solid team all three years, ultimately finishing with a Sectional Championship my Senior Year. We were talented, but more so than that, we loved the game and were more motivated than any other team I have been apart of. We held each other and ourselves accountable which, I have learned, is the most important aspect of a successful team. That senior season will always hold a special place in my heart. Winning a championship with my brother, Gavin, and my best friend, Sean Bradley, is a pretty cool memory.

 

MDO:Were you always focused on being a pitcher?

 

MW: Individually, I played shortstop and pitcher my freshman and sophomore year. Junior year Coach Ennis turned me into a pitcher only. Becoming a pitcher only was a tough pill to swallow because I missed being out on the field everyday, but I trusted what Coach Ennis suggested, and clearly he was right. It wasn’t until the fall of my Junior year that I realized college baseball was a possibility. I was approached by coaches asking to play club baseball and was fortunate enough for Coach Ennis to set me up with a good club team which allowed me to play in front of college coaches. Playing professional baseball has always been my goal ever since I started playing when I was little, but to say that I expected to play pro-ball when I was in high school would be a lie. My freshman year at Fairfield was when I realized that professional baseball was a legitimate possibility if I worked hard enough.

MDO:Explain your transition into Division One baseball and how Fairfield has made you grow.

 

MW: Out of high school I only had 2 offers to play college baseball, and neither of them included a scholarship. Thankfully, Coach Brown and Coach Currier at Fairfield saw something in me that they liked, and offered me a roster spot. I really owe my development into a professional pitcher entirely to Coach Brown. Coach Brown left Fairfield a week before I got drafted this spring, but he and I still remain close friends and talk multiple times a week. Most athletes will recognize one coach in their athletic career that they can point to as having an extraordinary or special relationship with and Coach Brown would be mine.

MDO: Did you do any preparing to get drafted?

 

MW: I really didn’t focus too much on the draft during my season at Fairfield. I had scouts calling me weekly and coming to school to set up meetings with me but I really kept it on the down low. I didn’t want my teammates to be distracted by my draft stock and have it effect the season. Obviously there would be some added pressure when I would pitch and see 4 or 5 radar guns behind home plate but I tried to keep everything in perspective. I knew that if I had a good season I would likely get drafted. Instead of focusing on things out of my control, I focused on pitching well and winning games, knowing the draft would come as a result of that.

MDO: Did you have any hesitations when you got the call from the Pirates?

 

MW: When I got drafted I was pretty set on signing with the Pirates. I knew that being drafted was a high possibility and as the season went on it became more and more of a reality. I had conversations with my parents and family every week throughout the season and we would discuss and weigh my options. I would also talk to Gavin, my roommates, and my closest teammates, and listen to what they had to say. Ultimately, I decided that it was the right baseball decision to sign with the Pirates and I am glad I did.

MDO:How have you been, and what is the next step?

 

MW:  My first season of pro-ball was a learning curve for sure. At first I didn’t perform nearly as well as I wanted to. After my first bad outing, I watched film, worked on my mechanics and came back with a strong next outing. As the season continued I started to get used to the routine of Pro Ball and began performing a lot better. I fixed some parts of my delivery and learned how to get guys out. By the end of the season I had become a much better pitcher and made some great friendships, so it was a success in my book.

Right now I am down in Bradenton, Florida playing in the Florida Instructional League. The league is essentially a baseball boot camp where we train for a month. There are about 160 guys at camp, most of them first year players and top prospects. I’m looking forward to getting better this fall and coming home for the off-season in October.

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6 Comments

6 Responses to “Mike Wallace: From Madison Dodger to Pittsburgh Pirate”

  1. Heather McCulloch on November 3rd, 2015 6:44 pm

    I can really relate to his story. Obviously I’m not a professional athlete but I do have a connection to his story. I just started playing volleyball about 3 years ago and I definitely want to continue with the sport. And just like Wallace I have been thinking about playing at a higher level. I’m currently in the try-out process for a couple of club teams. I’ve also been thinking about playing at the college level. Hopefully my story can end like Wallace’s.

  2. Michael May on November 6th, 2015 9:34 pm

    This is a very well written article. I really liked how all of his responses to the questions were added. This is a great addition to the article because it shows the reader how Mike feels about his profession career and his time at madison. I can kind of relate to Mike because I have been playing baseball all of my life on many different club and travel teams and taking to the next level is something I always wanted to do. To me, that is just a dream. But to Mike, that is reality. Congratulations!

  3. Walter Brownlee on November 8th, 2015 12:06 am

    I think this is a great story of how someone went from a small town to the big leagues. I like Mike Wallace’s motivation to baseball and will try my best like he does to achieve goals in my own life. Like Mike, I hope I can play college baseball and ultimately major league baseball. Furthermore, it was nice to read a story of one of the players my own brother spent so many years with on the field. I wish the best to Mike Wallace and hope I can follow in his footsteps.

  4. Melanie F on November 8th, 2015 6:31 pm

    I find this article very interesting because I really want to play soccer in college and hopefully professionally. I still have a lot to practice, but this article inspires me to work hard to achieve my dream of playing soccer when I grow up.

  5. Amanda Granato on November 8th, 2015 6:54 pm

    I can also relate to his story! I started playing softball in third grade and now I’m getting looked at by colleges. It’s surreal to think that you go from playing a sport in the backyard can turn into your occupation. I hope that one day I can end up like Wallace.

  6. Christopher Peterson on November 8th, 2015 11:38 pm

    Wow, what an amazing accomplishment! I can’t believe that this small town could produce such an amazing outcome for someone, with more to come! Good job Mike! and congratulations to the entire Wallace family!

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