Kolten Wong took the field Monday night at Modern Woodmen Park with no expectations beyond playing his game.
The St. Louis Cardinals' first-round selection in the 2011 draft dealt with some nervous energy, but reached base in four of his five plate appearances, collecting two hits and driving two runs home for Quad-Cities in an 8-3 Midwest League win over Cedar Rapids.
"After I got that first at-bat in, I settled down, but before then there were some nerves, a lot of energy. It's a night I'll remember for the rest of my life," said Wong, who drove home the River Bandits' first run with a sacrifice fly in the first inning before later reaching base on a walk and after being hit by a pitch.
His only defensive chance took a hop off of his chest, but Wong recovered in time to record the first out of the fourth inning.
"That still stings a bit, but it felt good to be out there," said Wong, the fifth first-round pick from this year's draft to sign a contract and begin a professional career.
"The guy is a ballplayer," Quad-Cities manager Johnny Rodriguez said. "He took a ball off his face during infield and just kept going. I watched his eyes all night, and his focus, it was there from start to finish."
Wong's effort came in front of a crowd of 6,505, which included Jeff Luhnow, the Cardinals vice president of scouting and player development.
He considers Quad-Cities and the low-A league a perfect spot for Wong to begin his career.
"With the facility here, the coaching staff, the fan support and the level of competition, it is a good place for him to adjust to the pro game and to learn," Luhnow said. "He's coming from a college program that draws good crowds, and he'll be at home here."
Luhnow said St. Louis watched Wong closely over the past several years, first with Team USA in 2009 and then in the wood-bat Cape Cod League last summer. Cardinals scouts attended nearly all of the 57 games he played at the University of Hawaii this year.
"He has won all kinds of accolades for his bat, and those are deserved, but we feel like he has the ability to be a complete ballplayer," Luhnow said. "He has the perfect makeup."
Rodriguez liked the humbleness he heard as he talked with Wong before Quad-Cities began its Monday early work, saying, "You can tell he wants to learn."
A .358 hitter with 47 doubles, 25 homers and 145 RBIs during his collegiate career at Hawaii in his home state, Wong was part of a Warriors double-play combination with recently-promoted River Bandits infielder Greg Garcia.
"I talked with him. He told me that this is a great place to play and that I just needed to be myself," Wong said. "He told me if I did that, I'd get to where he is at soon."
Wong was ready to begin his career by the time he took the field for early work with the River Bandits.
His whirlwind weekend began with a 9-hour flight delay in Honolulu and included a quick trip to Macys in downtown St. Louis to purchase clothes after he arrived before his luggage.
After passing a physical and signing his contract Saturday, Wong went through some drills and took batting practice with the Cardinals prior to Sunday's game with Toronto before departing for the Quad-Cities.
"It's been a pretty awesome couple of days. Just having the chance to meet those guys and be on that field, it was great," said Wong, whose parents Kaha and Kela and brother Kean were in attendance at Monday's game.
And now, he looks forward to building on his first professional experience.
"I'm here to work and to learn," Wong said. "This is just the start, and now I can build on that."