The Star Times baseball and softball luncheon provided a history lesson this week.
Monday was the first of two Star Times all-area spring luncheons, in which The Seattle Times honors the top athletes in baseball, softball and girls soccer in King and Snohomish counties and a few other schools.
Monday we honored players and coaches in baseball and softball (the girls soccer luncheon is Tuesday). About 70 families, friends, coaches and teammates attended. As always, Star Times is a great time to celebrate the accomplishments of some of the finest high-school athletes in the area.
You’ll have to wait until next Monday to read about all of our selections, but one family illustrates why I love high-school sports.
Joe Wainhouse is a strapping slugger from Kentridge who hits for power and average. He’s 6 feet 7, 240 pounds and has hit 10 home runs this season. He’ll play baseball for Mississippi in college. He’s a nice kid who richly deserves the honor.
He also happens to have pretty good bloodlines.
His father is Dave Wainhouse, a former major-league reliever who pitched for the Mariners in 1993, Lou Piniella’s first season as Seattle’s manager. Dave Wainhouse also pitched for four other teams during his seven-year big-league career. He played baseball for Mercer Island High School and Washington State before being drafted in the first round of the 1988 Major League Baseball amateur draft.
I noticed his nametag at Monday’s luncheon and briefly talked to Wainhouse about his career. But what I found far more interesting was what he said about his days as a high-school athlete.
He must have been a star, right? A can’t-miss prospect mowing everyone down on his way to the big leagues?
Wrong. Turns out Wainhouse, now 46 and a former pitching coach for Seattle University, wasn’t very good in high school.
“I didn’t win a single game my senior year,” he told me Monday. “I had a terrible senior year.”
So how did Wainhouse make it all the way to the majors? He was a late-bloomer, a kid who had a late growth spurt and didn’t become a varsity regular until he was a senior. Suddenly, he could uncork a great fastball, yet Wainhouse’s story proves that it takes more than throwing hard to be an effective pitcher. He didn’t get one Division I baseball scholarship offer. He walked on at WSU and blossomed under legendary coach Bobo Brayton. As a junior, the 6-foot-2 right-hander was 7-0 on a Cougars pitching staff that included another former Mariner, John Olerud. The Montreal Expos made the Canadian-born Wainhouse the No. 19 overall selection in the draft.
Wainhouse reached the big leagues at 23 and became a journeyman pitcher who bounced between the minors and majors.
Star Times dates back to 1978 but did not include springs sports until 2006. And even if we had done it earlier, Dave Wainhouse wouldn’t have made our team. One look at his 0-6 win-loss record as a senior, and we would have picked someone else.
Yet Wainhouse’s story underlines what’s so great about prep sports. There are always hidden gems who mature later and achieve surprising success.
Prep sports are about far more than wins, losses and eye-popping statistics. They’re about reaching your potential.
Don Shelton has worked at The Seattle Times for 27 years and has been sports editor since 2009. His prep baseball career peaked his sophomore year in Southern Idaho.
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