Zelous Wheeler Has Hopes of Being Next Brewers Utility Man
Zelous Wheeler is the type of player that has potential for the next Miller Park fan favorite. For one thing, he has a first name that is hard to forget. Wheeler also brings a level of hard work that Brewers fans expect every day. It will be obvious to fans that Wheeler enjoys what he is doing and his passion for the game shows.
“I just try to have fun out there and play hard every day,” Wheeler said. “I like to have fun while playing the game; I smile a lot out there. When you play a great game like we do, you can’t get mad at everything, just play hard and have fun.”
Wheeler finds himself playing in the Arizona Fall League for the first time in his five-year professional career. He started this season in Major League Spring Training in February and broke camp with Triple-A Nashville, where his season quickly turned sour following a home plate collision.
“I enjoyed and learned a lot from the older guys at Big League camp and was fortunate enough to break camp with Nashville,” said Wheeler. “Unfortunately I got hurt the second game of the season and missed two months with a (right) torn PCL (posterior cruciate ligament). I bounced back and got my step back. I’m grateful to receive the invite to the Arizona Fall League. Now I’m here playing hard every day and trying to get better.”
Wheeler played a total of 17 games with Nashville, hitting .275 with one home run and six RBI in 2011. He spent most of the year with Double-A Huntsville, hitting .272 with eight home runs and 32 RBI in 65 games. After missing two months with his injury, Wheeler was excited for the opportunity to play in Arizona.
“It’s good to see the talent here and play with them,” said Wheeler. “It is a tough league from A-to-Z. It’s good to come out here and compete and battle every day. I feel like I’m getting better every day.”
That positive attitude has earned Wheeler a nomination for the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award presented to the Fall League player who best shows the unselfishness, hard work and leadership. The manager and coaching staff from each team nominate one player for the award. It was clear that Wheeler felt honored by the nomination.
“Being nominated for that really means a lot,” said Wheeler with a smile. “It means the guys appreciate me coming here every day and playing hard and having fun. I have the same attitude every day, it doesn’t matter what you are doing good or doing bad, come to the ballpark happy and ready to play.”
The Brewers 19th round selection in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft out of Wallace State (AL) Community College, Wheeler has played third base for most of his career. Coming into the 2011 season, Baseball America called him the Brewers prospect with the best infield arm. He has played first base twice during the Fall League which brought up questions of a possible position change, an idea to which Wheeler is open.
“We have had some injuries on our team down here and I love playing defense,” said the 25-year old. “Anywhere I can get in the lineup and play, I will do it. I just feel a little short at first; I have never played there before. I want to be a super-utility guy and make myself a versatile player. I even started catching a little bit! I just want to get in the lineup and help wherever I can.”
He means what he says when he talks about helping wherever he can. Wheeler even mentioned helping his Dad with some “chores” around the house when he returns home to Alabama after the Fall League concludes tomorrow.
“I’m going to take some time off after this, enjoy the holidays, help my dad with the landscaping around the house and before we know it, it will be time to get back to work,” said Wheeler. “I will be ready!”
Hopefully Brewers fans will see Wheeler “landscaping” on the Brewers infield at Miller Park in the near future as his strong defense, solid hitting and personality will be an asset to the club.
WEDNESDAY WRAP UP
Score: Peoria 4, Scottsdale 3 (7 inning game due to shortage of available pitchers)
Weather: Clear, 59 degrees
Tomorrow: Phoenix at Peoira, 1:35 p.m. CT
Brewers In the Box Score: Kentrail Davis went 2-for-3 tonight with a double, a triple and two RBI…..Scooter Gennett went 0-for-4, his batting average is now .414, still good for second in the AFL….Dan Meadows pitched one inning and allowed one run on one hit.
On the Other Team: Nationals prospect Bryce Harper was slated to play, but was scratched from the lineup just before first pitch…..Jean Segura, an infield prospect in the Angels organization had two hits and two runs scored.
– Click this link for some photos and videos from Jed Bradley and Brandon Kintzler in tonight’s game.
– Today, I visited with the Brewers Offseason Conditioning Program at Maryvale Baseball Park, check out my report on that tomorrow.