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One-on-One with Former Baylor Baseball Great, Davis Wendzel

May 6, 2022
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Amidst the ups and the downs of the 2022 season, I wanted to do something fun and change the pace a little bit. Last Monday, the Round Rock Express were gracious enough to give me the opportunity to sit down and speak with former Baylor star third-baseman, Davis Wendzel. 

During his time at Baylor, Wendzel won Big 12 Co-Player of the Year in 2019 along with being a Third-Team All-American. In 2018, he was first-team All-Big 12, All-Big 12 Tournament Team, and a Big 12 Tournament Champion. Wendzel was also on the All-Big 12 Honorable Mention and Big 12 All-Freshman Teams in 2017.

He was drafted 41st overall in the 2019 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers. Wendzel is currently the starting third baseman for the Round Rock Express, the Rangers Triple A affiliate, and is the No. 17 overall prospect in a deep Rangers farm system.

We went over where he is currently within the Texas Rangers organization, his time at Baylor, and his favorite spots to eat in Waco, among other things. Davis was incredibly kind and it was an extremely fun conversation. I hope you all enjoy it.


LC: Starting with the Rangers, take me through your development? How has Round Rock been? How are you feeling this season just being able to be healthy?

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Davis Wendzel: It’s been really good. For some reason, I’ve been kind of healthy my whole career until my junior year of college. I tore my oblique halfway through the season at TCU. And then in the Big 12 Tournament, kind of my second game back, I tore my UCL in my thumb. It just wouldn’t stop for some reason. So I got to the Rangers and everything got crazy with Covid and not really playing. Last year, I broke my hand. So it finally feels good to be healthy. I’m not babying my hand at all. I’m able to make adjustments that I know I've always been able to on my swing. It’s really fun and I’m feeling good. It feels weird to be so close to the big leagues. Just being so close to those dreams. It doesn’t feel like anything different, but weird at the same time. 

LC: Was 2020 really difficult for your development? You get drafted in 2019, there’s no minor league season in 2020, just not being able to be out there, not being able to work with anyone, Was that hard?

Davis Wendzel: It was really hard because you did all this work and the big thing going from college to pro ball is you just gotta play. It’s just an adjustment of having to play every day. So the only way to do that is to play. Having a season where there was nothing, it was hard. I made the most of it, I got to hit with some really good hitting coaches out in California and the rest of the country. It was a really cool experience, and I got to hit with some really good big leaguers. I learned a lot. So while I did miss that development, I got to do things that I have never been able to do. It’s good to be back and finally healthy, hopefully staying healthy. But that 2020 season was tough.  

LC: So speaking of hitting coaches, being a Rangers fan. I've had to endure the past five years of no offense whatsoever. So then we get Tim Hyers from Boston, and we get Donnie Ecker from San Francisco. I think I read something that in Arizona [Spring Training] you were able to spend some time with them? How much have they helped you in particular?

Davis Wendzel: Tim has been at it a long time and is established as one of the best hitting coaches in the league. Donnie has shown he is right there with him. It’s been really awesome. We had some time in December to get out there and just hit with them because they couldn’t be with the big leaguers. So they came out with some of the prospects and it was really cool to spend time one on one with them. Got to know Donnie and had a little connection because Steve McClain, his half-brother is from Baylor. So I got to have a little connection there and we had a good relationship from that, and just started to grow as we had time.

And then this spring training, I got to go to big league camp and got to spend time a lot of time with them and had a lot of success. There are some big takeaways on the differences in pro ball are like the pitchers really know what they are trying to do with their pitches. So if you have a fastball, they know how to play an offspeed pitch off of it to get the most deception possible. Tim and Donnie are really good at simplifying those things to make it so you can cover as many pitches in as many zones without guessing or thinking about it too much. 

LC: The Rangers signed Corey Seager, and they signed Marcus Semien. Was it cool for the first time in a while to see a clear direction and a commitment towards winning?

Davis Wendzel: Yes, for sure. First of all, showing up to spring and having Marcus Semien and Corey Seager in the same locker room is different for sure. Obviously, I’ve got to play with some really good players in the past and got to be in the same locker room as some of them. But I mean getting Seager and Semien was really cool. Knowing the Rangers are committed to a future of wanting to win is really encouraging. And just seeing the guys that they got was really cool. Having a guy like Seager who has done it all: won a world series, MVP in the world series, and has pretty much achieved what you want to achieve as a baseball player.

Smiley N. Pool - Dallas Morning News

I got to start a spring training game where he is at short and I'm at third and he’s relaying those pitches to me, to know if it’s a fastball or an offspeed. That’s really cool because when you're that guy that’s proven, in spring training, you don't have to do that. Him and Marcus are the type of guys that are relentless and who do that constantly. I got to hit with Marcus a lot in the cages and train with some nasty machines. Maybe I get blown up by a pitch and he gets blown up on a pitch, but it’s like man, you have to practice harder than the game. They check their egos and just want to get better. 

LC: And so for the first time in a while, the minor league system is pretty stacked. Bubba Thompson, Josh Smith, Ezekiel Duran, etc. Who do you think has the best chance to be a stud out of that group?

Davis Wendzel: I think there’s just so many studs. When we got to Triple A, usually there are three infielders that play every day and a fourth infielder that kind of fills in. We literally have four infielders that have to play every single day, and that’s really impressive. That is how it is down in Frisco too. We have four really solid infielders. Out of the guys you are talking about, they are obviously all studs. But there are a ton of guys you don’t even hear about that I think are going to be really good for the Rangers in the near future. 

LC: Do you have any names you can give out?

Davis Wendzel: Probably a guy a lot of people don’t hear about is Chase Lee. He’s a kid from Alabama, drafted last year, and he went straight to Double A. He’s a closer and he is nasty. He is a sidearm guy and it is just disgusting. He is a pretty special dude. There are a ton of other guys just like that, that are having great success and are going to be great players. Another one from Baylor is Cody Bradford. He’s not the highest touted guy and he had a great year last year and he’s going to do great again this year. With the depth in our organization, I think it is slept on. It is also really impressive compared to where we were when I got here. 

LC: I’m sure you get asked this a lot. But is there kind of like a sibling rivalry between you and Josh Jung? You know, both Big 12 Co-Players of the Year. You both get drafted together? How has yalls relationship kind of developed over the years?

Davis Wendzel: In the Big 12, I was not a big fan of Josh Jung. We were always fighting with them for the Big 12. But yeah, I wasn’t the biggest fan of him and literally the second we both got drafted together, we kind of moved everywhere together. We went to the same hotel when we got drafted, we signed on the same day, and then we went to Arizona together. Since then, we have been best friends, just been going everywhere. Unfortunately, he got hurt which really sucked because he was going to have a monster year. I still get to text him and call him and keep up with him. But I would say I really did not anticipate how good of friends we would be after our time spent against each other in the Big 12.

LC: Okay, we'll kind of move into Baylor now. So you and Coach Rod are both from California. You both loved to hunt. Was there kind of a natural connection between y’all?

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Davis Wendzel: I’m from California and I wanted to go somewhere in Texas and no one in Texas really wanted me. I was looking at TCU, I had some connections with coaches there and they didn’t want to let me play for them. I wanted to go to A&M and A&M and Texas had offered all of their scholarships and weren’t really interested. It kind of worked out perfectly right when I was looking for a spot to go, Rod came over from California to Baylor. It was a perfect fit. Baylor is an amazing academic school and has the small class sizes that I was looking for, but also the huge athletics. Not only at the time baseball was good, but football, soccer, and both basketball teams, and everyone was just going off. It was really fun to know that you could literally walk to any game and know that your team is going to be good. It was a perfect fit. At the time I didn’t know Rod was going to be into hunting. I was really into fishing and was looking to get into hunting in Texas and it all really just worked out perfectly. 

LC: What did Rod and the coaching staff kind of mean to you, as a player? What did you see specifically improve over your time in Waco?

Davis Wendzel: The staff as a whole changed a little bit as I was there, the big pillars of Rod, Taylor, and Strauss were there the whole time. But our strength staff kind of changed a few times when I was there. When I got there, the will to be good with what we had was really impressive. We didn’t have anyone special my freshman year, as far as big-name talent. Outside of Shea [Langeliers], he was a freshman and he was a big name coming out of high school. But there just wasn’t anything that you see at a TCU, a Tech, or a Texas, those huge recruiting classes.

The will to get everything out of it and those early morning workouts that we were doing sucked. I still tell people I get PTSD from waking up and getting screamed at every morning. But it makes you so tough that when you get into those games, there is really nothing that can phase you. I think the big thing that really improved for me was, I was always really good at defense, but being able to move all over the place and make plays at a really fast level. College speeds up and then pro ball speeds up. But having these practices where hitters are throwing BP and can hit as hard as they want at the infielders. You are just there for 20 minutes getting crushed by these balls. That really improves your defense and I got faster and faster throughout my time there. From the strength staff and getting to commit to hitting approaches. Everything. They were committed and willing to do anything to get the most out of the players they had. 

LC: That’s another thing is when you just look on the field, Baylor doesn’t necessarily look apart, but they always compete just as hard. A lot of people will point to oh well Baylor is a private school, you know, the scholarship thing, obviously. Oh, Baylor Ballpark is aging, 1999 was the first year, and so a lot of people will kind of blame us for being a private school, us not having updated facilities as a reason for us not being an elite program. What would you say about that? 

Davis Wendzel: I would say it definitely doesn’t help. It definitely has its own challenges but I think every school has its own challenges. There is always something you can overcome. I think a team like Vandy, who gets everything they want as far as facilities, recruits, and stuff like that. They have that as a luxury but Vandy also has everyone going to the MLB. Obviously, you rather have everything to go for you and everything you have dreamed of, but I think you have to find a niche of players. Whether that’s going to California and finding real good players who want to come out of California and play in the Big 12 in that big school environment, rather than go to a small school in California. I think there are so many good players, like myself, I didn't have that many offers. I wasn't a big recruit. Even at Baylor, they knew I was going to be a good player, but I don't think they knew exactly what they were getting.

Football and basketball are kind of a different story. If you get a 5-star recruit in football, that dude is a stud, he’s going to be really good. But in baseball, there are a lot more little things. There is a niche out there and it may be a smaller niche than what Texas Tech gets to look at. But there is a group of guys out there like me who want to play at a big school and are willing to go to another state to do it.

LC: I think there is some beauty in that. You kind of see that in Baylor’s football and basketball programs, where the cultures are very distinct. People are always raving about “Oh well the Baylor kids don’t enter the transfer portal” and hopefully that culture can transition into the baseball program. 

Davis Wendzel: When you get to Baylor and you realize how special of a place it is. Like you are saying about no one entering the transfer portal it's because the place is special. The school is really cool. But the unique atmosphere that Baylor has, it's really cool. If they can play into that, it's hard to tell a recruit that before they get there. But I think it can be done, it’s been done before and I think they will do it again for sure. 

LC: It’s special for sure. In 2018, you win the Big 12 Tournament, take me through a quick recap of that.

Pablo Mondragon

Davis Wendzel: We started out that season not very well. I think we started below .500, then went on a huge winning streak towards the end. We had some ground to make up, but we did good and we entered into the Big 12 Tournament hot and we knew that. I remember it was a big thing to win that first game because the first couple years before Rod got there, all those guys were used to losing. It’s been a culture of “everyone doesn’t want to lose”, but it’s been what’s happened.

When we won that first game I think it showed everyone alright we have already done better than we have in the past, now let’s just go out and play. We took off and started beating everybody up. We had Cody on the mound and he was just dealing. We knew when he was on the mound he was only going to give up one or two runs and we were going to stomp the team and so it was fun. We got to the end and we were light on pitching and I think Hayden [Kettler] ended up starting for us even though he started two days before and only threw for a few innings. We were playing TCU and I have a special spot in my heart for TCU to just crush them every time because they didn’t want me and they made it clear they didn’t want me. Schloss [Jim Schlossnagle] never acknowledged that he was wrong or anything. When we played them, we always played well.

We got off to an early start, I think I hit a three-run home run in the first or second inning. We went from there and the game ended up getting really close. We had a couple opportunities to walk it off and Shea finally walked it off. That was probably one of the best feelings to win the Big 12 Tournament and just end that season on a high note going into the NCAA Tournament, and just prove that we belong. That sends stuff into the next year to have a good year. Obviously, it didn’t go as well as we wanted because of injuries and that’s just something that is unfortunate that we’ve been dealing with at Baylor. 

LC: I feel like there’s been a lot of injuries in recent years that have derailed the tail end of the season. Are there a lot of what-ifs with that 2019 team?

Davis Wendzel: I mean I think there always is, even when you have the best season, you look back at something stupid you did. Maybe if I was healthy for the whole season maybe we would win another game and we wouldn't lose by half of a game to Tech in the conference. If we win that, then we host. If you win the Big 12 you host, then we lose that game. I don't know how, but for some reason, we went from losing the Big 12 by half a game to instead of being a 2 seed at a bad regional, we go to the #1 national seed’s regional, and like how does that happen? We have UCLA and they are the national #1 seed, that doesn't make any sense. There are always what-ifs. If we win one more game, we win the Big 12 and we are hosting at Baylor and maybe we have the best crowd in Baylor history. Then we roll over the regional, we host a super regional, and we go to the world series. Maybe that changes everything in Baylor’s trajectory and we start to get to more prospects, there are always what ifs. It's always frustrating knowing you are half a game away from possibly changing everything. It’s frustrating, there are always what-ifs in life you know? 

LC: Yeah, Tyler Thomas and Chase Wehsener were both on that 2019 team. They have been performing at a high level this season. Have you been keeping up with them? Is it fun to see them playing well?

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Davis Wendzel: I don’t know how long Chase has been there. He’s not even that old, I just feel like he’s been there forever. He’s gotta be so calm and collected out there compared to a lot of the other freshmen. He’s always hit. Ever since he got there as a freshman as a skinny little string bean, you could tell he could hit. As he has grown up and grown into his body a little bit, it’s been cool to see his success. T Thom has been especially cool because when I was there, he really struggled. We saw glimpses of really good T Thom that you are seeing now. He’d have outings that were amazing and then he would go back to not being able to consistently hit the zone or get hit around. So being able to see him find the ability to command three pitches and find his command and work around that has been really cool to see that success. 

LC: If Tyler can stay healthy, he definitely has a future ahead of him professionally. 

Davis Wendzel: It’s been tough. There have been a lot of injuries to key pitchers in the past couple years. We made a run in 2019 without Cody [Bradford]. Imagine if we have Cody? That whole team changes because you have less pressure on your Friday night guy. Cody is your Friday guy and he can take the pressure. Now you have to throw someone that’s maybe not ready for that role. It trickles down to having a guy on Sunday who maybe shouldn’t be there at all. 

LC: Yea and Baylor’s bullpen has struggled all year and they are having to work overtime right now. It’s really a trickle-down effect like you said. Do you and your former teammates talk about the state of the program? Do yall pay that close of attention?

Davis Wendzel: Me, Shea, and Andy Thomas were all in a group chat the other day just talking about how it's been a bummer about how they have had some success, then some guys go down, and struggle, it’s been frustrating to watch. You want your school to do well. It’s been tough to watch it and it’s not going as they have wanted. 

LC: I know at one point Baylor was on a 5-game winning streak, then a 5-game losing streak, 4-game winning streak, 4-game losing streak. Just when you think it’s going up, it goes back down. There has been no consistency this year which is really unfortunate.

So I found a fun little stat, true or false, you hold the longest on-base streak at Baylor since 2003 with 39 consecutive games?

Davis Wendzel: I think that is true and if that is, is it true?

LC: It is false. That record belongs to David Murphy. You were at 37 games.

Davis Wendzel: 37, yeah, I remember when I lost it. I was in West Virginia, in my sophomore year. I was having a really good start to the year obviously and I lined out twice and I just didn’t get on base. I think I remember thinking I got screwed by an umpire and I was mad that I lost it and I remember specifically that got to me that I had lost it and I started to not do as well. I remember being so mad at myself because of that. So my junior year I was like I’m not going to care about these things, we’re just going to keep going.

LC: With the guy that holds that record, do you have a relationship with David Murphy, both having that Baylor to the Rangers connection?

Davis Wendzel: Unfortunately, I have only gotten to meet him a couple times at Baylor. It’s actually funny, Cody [Bradford], who I roomed with in Spring Training, got to go back to an alumni game in one of the past years and got to hang out with David Murphy a lot. He got to develop a pretty good relationship with him. I think they were driving from Amarillo or maybe Midland because he was in Frisco and he was driving back to Frisco and he stopped at a Buc-ee's. I think this was on Easter and he saw David Murphy. Cody was like, ‘Hey Mr. Murphy, Happy Easter’ and David Murphy goes, ‘Cody Bradford?’ and it was a pretty funny and random story seeing David Murphy at a Buc-ee's on Easter. 

LC: So the last thing is we have some questions from your fans on the forums, what is the best minor league atmosphere you have played in?

Pablo Mondragon

Davis Wendzel: My favorite place to play at was Amarillo, strictly because it’s the best hitting ballpark I’ve ever played at. It’s so fun, the ball just flies out of there. There’s so many hits and the ground is super hard so everything goes through there fast. Frisco is another really fun place to play.  Especially on Thursdays, they pack that place. The lazy river up top is packed full of people, it’s impressive how many people they can fit into that lazy river and they have a DJ up there, that was pretty fun. And Round Rock, I don’t know if you have been there, is a cool spot. My parents watched on tv, and they were like “oh it’s a nice park.” But when they got there, they were like, “wow tv didn’t do it justice.” Round Rock is a really nice place to play. You feel like you are for sure in Triple AAA and you feel close to the big leagues. 

LC: You are literally close to the big leagues. So speaking of Round Rock, have you ever been to Round Rock Donuts?

Davis Wendzel: Haha yeah. So I don’t eat donuts very often but my wife loves donuts. Every Sunday we have a day game, so we get there really early in the morning and they have Round Rock Donuts. I’ve had to dabble a couple of times, I have to say. 

LC: I’m not a donut guy, but those are by far, the best donuts I have ever had. They are legit. 

Davis Wendzel: Yea, they are really good. 

LC: Do you have a favorite place to eat when you are back in Waco?

Davis Wendzel: My favorite place is probably Tru Jamaica. It’s so unique and you wouldn’t expect it to be in Waco. You go in there and you feel like you are in Jamaica. The people that work there are super nice and friendly. And the food there is so authentic that you won't find anywhere else in Waco, which is really cool. If you like carrot cake, I’m not a big carrot cake person, but I’ve been told by people who love carrot cake it’s the best out there. We get it every time we go there because my wife loves sweets. 

LC: Last question, a memory you will never forget about Baylor?

Davis Wendzel: I would say the walk-off to win the Big 12 Championship was definitely number one. Having such a back and forth game where you thought you were going to lose and then you come back and tie it and we end up winning and dogpiling at Bricktown. That was unbelievable. That was my number one. There were some memories that were miserable at the time where our strength coach, who was just a firecracker of energy, would kill us every morning. We had some mornings in the winter where we would wake up at 5:30 and we usually would stretch and do a pre-lift in the indoor facility for the football team. But one morning it was like 29 degrees and he decided we weren't going to go inside. He wanted to make us suffer, so we did it on the outdoor football fields. It’s pitch black the field was covered in ice and it's 29 degrees outside and we are just wearing shorts and t-shirts. So we are freezing and we are going through warmups and we are trying not to slip and fall all over the place. It was miserable, but you can never forget those moments

LC: I’m sure you miss that comradery of being with the guys 

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Davis Wendzel: I was just talking with someone about wanting to play college baseball the other day and you’ll never get those years of college teams back. It’s special. Even those last memories I had there where we lost to UCLA, but having that ability for me and Shea to fly back early for the draft and be in the President's suite. It was really nice that they gave us that to have a draft party. Then the whole team got in that night and we celebrated together. 

LC: Was it surreal getting to stay in Texas, going from Waco to Dallas?

Davis Wendzel: I interviewed with all thirty teams and Texas was my number one choice. Obviously, I don’t get to choose, but the guys that I met with for the Rangers were really impressive. Getting to stay in Texas was a big thing. Honestly, it was a roller coaster of a day because it was a long time before I got drafted, it felt like forever, but I ended up where I was supposed to. 


To finish things up, I told Davis that the most hands-down thing people wanted to know was if he had any eligibility left. He jokingly added, “In baseball? I don’t think I do.” He finished with a big smile on his face saying, “I love Baylor, I would if I could.”

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One-on-One with Former Baylor Baseball Great, Davis Wendzel

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