2022 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Trenton Wallace puts in a complete game performance in this edition of C’s Chat.
Born in Rock Island, Illinois, the lefthanded Wallace enjoyed a stellar career at Davenport Assumption High School in Iowa in which he collected numerous awards. Among them.
- Iowa All-State “Super” Team selection as a junior and senior
- Three-time first-team all-state, all-district, and all-conference selection
- Two-time all-conference and and all-district and third-team all-state shooting guard in basketball
In his junior season of 2016 at Davenport Assumption, Wallace won six of seven decisions with a minuscule 0.28 earned run average, striking out 70 batters in 50 innings. He was even better in his senior season as he won all 11 of his decisions. His 2017 ERA “ballooned” to 0.29 but that was more than offset by striking out 112 batters and walking only 17 in 72 innings to go along with an opponents batting average of .123. As a lefthanded hitter, Wallace also excelled in the batter’s box in 2017 as he slashed .420/.527/.558. He ended his high school career as the winning pitcher with a 13-strikeout performance over Harlan in the state championship game in 2017.
It was on to Iowa City and the Iowa Hawkeyes for Wallace in 2018. His freshman season saw him go 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA in which he struck out 27 batters and walked nine over 24 innings. The win came in his first college start against Cornell on February 27 and collected a pinch-hit single against Michigan on March 28. Wallace had to undergo Tommy John surgery on his left elbow after the season but was able to return for his sophomore season of 2019 to log 26-2/3 innings with a 31-19 K/BB total. He also played in left field and right field in 11 games and two more as a designated hitter.
In 2020, Wallace continued on as a two-way player with three games in left field and three more as the DH where he hit .529 with a home run in 17 at-bats. Before COVID cancelled the season, Wallace posted a 1-0 mark with a 1.59 ERA and punched out 18 hitters against two walks over 11-1/3 innings.
With Tommy John surgery sidelining 2020 Friday night starter Jack Dreyer, the Hawkeyes needed someone to assume the role of ace on the 2021 starting staff and Wallace was up to the task. All he did was lead the Big 10 Conference in wins (7), ERA (2.34) and strikeouts (106) and turned in eight quality starts out of 11 and allowed two or fewer runs in 10 of them. His 106 K’s in 73 innings was the second best single-season total in Iowa history. That all resulted in Wallace being named the Big 10 Pitcher of the Year, the first time a Hawkeye hurler earned the award.
Baseball America ranked Wallace as the third best prospect in the state of Iowa and 291st overall for the 2021 Major League Baseball Draft.
It looked like Trenton Wallace was on his way to the Trenton Thunder of the MLB Draft League to boost his draft stock but he opted not to attend. The Toronto Blue Jays would select Wallace in the 11th round of the 2021 Draft and give him a $172,500 signing bonus.
Wallace’s professional debut came on August 25 in Lakeland and he ended his first year with seven shutout innings over four appearances, including four strikeouts in two scoreless frames in Tampa on September 9.
It was back to Dunedin for Wallace in 2022 and after missing most of April due to injury, he made his first pro start in which he spun three shutout innings of two-hit ball with three strikeouts against Clearwater on May 8. His first professional win came in a four-inning relief appearance on May 15 against Tampa in which he gave up just one run and struck out six. His first-ever save came against St. Lucie on May 25 as he worked the final four innings and allowed just one run while whiffing four.
After a 1.20 ERA in May, Wallace was even better in June. Toggling between the rotation and bullpen, the southpaw did not give up a run in 17 innings over four appearances. He struck out 27 batters and walked only three. Amazingly, Wallace was not named the Florida State League Pitcher of the Month. That went to Daytona’s Javi Rivera instead. Rivera gave up just one earned run with a 0.48 ERA over 18-1/3 innings with a 24-3 K/BB total. Great numbers to be sure but still not as good as Wallace’s. Perhaps the MLB decision makers suffered from voter fatigue and were tired of awarding Pitcher of the Month awards to Dunedin hurlers as Ricky Tiedemann and Dahian Santos earned those honours in April and May respectively. Executive Summary – Wallace was robbed!
Instead, Wallace had to settle for an FSL Pitcher of the Week award for the week of June 13-19 when he allowed just one hit and one walk over five shutout innings while striking out seven in Jupiter on June 14. He would continue his shutout string into July with five more goose eggs and five strikeouts against Clearwater on July 6.
After putting together 29-2/3 innings without a run, Wallace was called up to Vancouver on July 15. That was also the day of his Nat Bailey Stadium debut as he limited the Hillsboro Hops to one run over four innings in an eventual C’s victory. It took a while for Wallace to find his footing in the Northwest League but he tossed a career-high six innings and yielded just one run and struck out seven in an eventual win in Everett on August 19. He followed that up with 11 punchouts against Hillsboro on August 26 in which he allowed just one run over 5-2/3 innings.
In September, Wallace limited host Spokane to a run over five frames and struck out five to get his first win as a member of Monty’s Mounties on September 2. He turned in another five-inning, one-run performance against the Eugene Emeralds in his final regular season start at the Nat on September 9 in which he punched out seven batters.
C’s Plus Baseball chatted with the 23 year-old Wallace during the team’s late August homestand against Hillsboro. This interview has been edited for clarity.
C’s Plus Baseball – Let’s go back to your start (August 26) against Hillsboro. An outstanding start, 11 strikeouts. What was working for you?
Trenton Wallace – I think just establishing that I was going to be in the strike zone early. It started off the first thing with the first pitch out and then hit a guy. But after that kind of calming back down, getting right back in the zone and going after hitters and kind of made a point to myself. If you put the ball on the zone and challenge guys that they have to hit off you, and it’s a little bit harder for them to hit off us pitchers as a whole.
CPB – What was your pitch mix that day?
TW – That was actually the most evenly spread out mix I’ve had, I think on the whole season. And it was almost a perfect 33% split between a slider, changeup and fastball. And then I flipped in a couple curveballs later in the game just to have something different to show them. But overall, I think that’s what kept them on their toes, mostly being able to play the slider off the changeup and the changeup off the slider. And then being able to all of a sudden pop a fastball in there by them.
CPB – Your fastball. Four-seam or two-seam?
TW – Two seams only. I’ve always been a two-only guy, kind of a lower-arm slot guy. I’ve tried throwing a four-seam. It just doesn’t work for some reason.
CPB – The changeup. Is it a split change or a circle change?
TW – Kind of a hybrid. It’s not really a circle and it’s not really a split change. I use my middle finger and index finger and just throw it just like my fastball. It just takes some velo off of it and kills the spin on it usually and it just kind of goes off on its own.
CPB – The slider is the first pitch you mentioned. Did anyone show you that?
TW – My pitching coach at college helped me and then I ended up switching grips this offseason and going to a different one but I’ve always had kind of a unique feel for the slider. I get my slider to actually kind of have a rising effect. Obviously, it doesn’t actually go up but having that different type of slider I think is a good pitch for me and being able to play that off the fastball and the changeup is a good split to have pitches going different ways.
CPB – How would you describe yourself as a pitcher if you had to give a scouting report on yourself?
TW – I’m a competitor. I think that’s the goal for me. Every time I step out on the field between the lines, it’s time to beat the other team. It doesn’t matter what’s going on around me. I’m going to try to put my team in the best position possible to win the game and that’s it.
CPB – You had great numbers in Dunedin and got a Pitcher of the Week Award. What was going well for you there?
TW – I think just getting back in the zone, honestly. I mean, early, it’s kind of funny. Like the first few outings were not as good as I wanted them to be. I was a little wild at times and then I kind of started finding the groove a little bit later and then got into that starting role and just kind of took off with it. And I just told myself, ‘Just throw the ball down the middle and see what happens.’ And it just started clicking and I was able to pitch in different ways and like switch my way when I was facing a team again for the second time. I was able to play and look back at certain ways I was pitching them before and then change it the next time. And then kind of similar up here. The first few starts weren’t very good and not the way I wanted it to go. And then slowly I’ve been kind of just trying to keep a level head. Phil (C’s pitching coach Phil Cundari) and Joel (C’s bullpen coach Joel Bonnett), our pitching coaches have been really helping me stay kind of even keel through that little bump in the road. I’m just trying to keep working on being able to get back in the zone and trusting my stuff’s going to play at this level just as well as it did down there.
CPB – Your Pitcher of the Week Award. How did you find out about it?
TW – Through Twitter. It popped up on Twitter and I saw it and that was about it. And then a couple days later, our pitching coach down there Drew (Drew Hayes) announced it in the pitchers meeting and that was about it.
CPB – How you found out about your call-up to Vancouver?
TW – Actually, it was kind of funny. Drew called me in after one of my starts and Donnie (Donnie Murphy), our manager actually was out and the same with our hitting coach (Matt Young), they were out with sickness. Danny Canellas was our catching and first base coach and was the interim head coach for the four days. So they called me in, they said that I did something wrong and I made some guys upset on the team and they kept it going. I was like, ‘Ah, they gotta be kidding,’ because they’d done it to a few guys in the past. And then they kept it going for like five minutes. So then I’m slowly starting to build in that anxiousness, like ‘Am I really in trouble?’ And then finally they told me what was going on. And from there it was, ‘Just go do you.’
CPB – I want to talk to you about your start in Everett (August 19). That is not an easy park to pitch in at all. A lot of pitchers, their ERAs take a beating but what was that like pitching there with all those funky dimensions? It’s like the Fenway Park of the Northwest League.
TW – Yeah. Everyone knows it’s there. I mean that crazy right-center field (wall) and even just directly to center is very short at times. And the way I thought about it is if they hit one out, they hit one out over there. I mean, I’m not going to count it. I’m not going to pitch, like, I don’t want to give one up. Obviously, you don’t but if you start thinking about it, that’s when you make the mistake and then they do flip one out. So when I’m on the mound at an Everett, I just kind of zone out on the dimensions of the field and just focus on getting the hitter. And that happened to be the difference that day.
CPB – How do you find pitching here at Nat Bailey Stadium with 5,000, 6,000 fans a day here?
TW – This is the best environment I’ve ever played in. I think in college I did get quite a few fans at Iowa Hawkeye games but even just the energy that it brings on a consistent basis. I mean, it’s Tuesday through Sunday here. It’s going to be a loud crowd and they’re ready to go. They’re cheering us on and hoping we can make a playoff push for them and get them back into a playoff run here.
CPB – Speaking of Iowa, how did you wind up there?
TW – I grew up in Illinois but right on the border of Iowa. So I did everything in Iowa. I went to middle school in Iowa and high school. My Mom (Rona Wallace). Shout out to my Mom. She was my high school chemistry teacher for two years at the high school and it was in Davenport, Iowa. And then I was down to Illinois and Iowa where the two schools I was picking between and my Dad (Greg Wallace) is a baseball coach for Augustana in Illinois. It’s a Division III (program). So I knew Iowa was closer and it was going to be a lot easier for him to come and see me play as well. And as well as my mom with being able to teach and when our season starts, she’s still in school. So that kind of pushed me over there. The main difference was I was able to play two-way at college. So I played the outfield, a little bit of first base and pitched and I still enjoyed hitting. That wasn’t really an option at the other spot so Iowa kind of made the push for me to come there and I found a new home in it.
CPB – You had an outstanding career with the Hawkeyes, winning Big 10 Pitcher of the Year. What did that mean to you?
TW – It’s the first one in school history. I think like just for that, it’s a legacy setter. I mean, that’s how you want to leave your Jersey in a better spot for the next guy to wear it. And I think that’s what made it most important to me is I really felt that I put the Jersey in a better spot and the organization in a better spot. I like to think of myself as a perfect example of how good Robin Lund is as a (pitching coach) as the struggles I had through my sophomore season and junior season, and then to come out in my senior year as a whole new player, I credit him a lot of that success that year and being able to flip the switch that quickly and work with him. And I think it just sets a role for how you want your organization to work.
CPB – The Trenton Thunder. You were supposed to pitch for them?
TW – I did not, no. I was going to go to the (MLB) Draft League. Then I had the year that I had in my last year and I was like, ‘There’s no point to go out there and take a chance of getting hurt before the draft.’ I just kind of relaxed, worked out a few (times) here and there, threw some bullpens for some scouts but that was about it. It was just too risky to go play. But I did see it when they tweeted it out that I was going to go to the Draft League. The Trenton Thunder quote -tweeted it and like, this would be a perfect opportunity. So I was excited but then I was like, ‘I can’t do it. Sorry.’ They understood.
CPB – You get drafted by the Blue Jays in 2021. Talk about your draft day experience.
TW – Draft day was kind of crazy. I mean, I was sitting there on day two and kept getting calls, kept getting calls and then nothing worked out. I thought I was going to go on day two. Luckily I didn’t have to wait very long on day three. And the Blue Jays picked me up kind of right away in the 11th (round). And from there it was just a celebration. I mean, we were kind of honestly kind of glad the draft process was over because I mean, you’re sitting there and it’s just very nervewracking. You’re trying to wait and trying to be patient, but at some point, you know, you’re going to get antsy and want your name called. But as soon as I saw my name, I mean, it was a sigh of relief but also I had a sigh of excitement kind of like, ‘Alright. Finally found a home. Now let’s get to work.’
CPB – Did you have any idea it was going to be the Blue Jays or did you think it was going to be another team?
TW – I talked to the Blue Jays pre-draft quite a bit. Actually, I never really got called by them in the draft process. I just kind of saw my name pop up, but obviously, they informed me that they were going to take me. But other than that, yeah, I just kind of relaxed and then all of a sudden my name popped up.
CPB – Who was your signing scout?
TW – Wes Penick. My junior year, my senior year, both times. Great guy. Very personable, really checks in on me all the time. That’s the other thing, you build relationships. I think that’s what’s attracted me the most about the organization as a whole. They care about us as a person as well as a player.
CPB – I know it’s kind of a whirlwind. You get drafted. The next thing you know, you’re in Dunedin and you get your feet wet at the professional level. What was that whole experience like?
TW – It was very quick. I mean, they sent a group of guys out right away, kind of right after our two-week draft camp, which was fun, meeting everyone and being able to see how guys work, what type of stuff they do, how you can mix and match your routines and stuff. So they sent the group out to play. I stayed back at the facility for a couple more weeks and then got out finally to go play and you kind of get on that mound for the first time. And it’s like, ‘Oh wow, wow!’ This is what I dream of doing like when I was little, all the way through middle school, through high school and finally through college and you’re finally there. And then, funny story, my first professional pitch, I threw a fastball about 48 feet and it went right into the grass and I was like, ‘Alright. Now that that one’s out of the way, we can go back to being a normal baseball player.’ After that first pitch, then it was smooth sailing, like, ‘Alright, I’m finally here. Now it’s time to work. What you really want to work for, what you really want to accomplish.’
CPB – The Player Development Complex in Dunedin. What was your impression of seeing what was involved there?
TW – It’s awesome. I mean the new complex is very fitting for the organization. They are very interested in developing homegrown players as in guys they take in the draft or internationally, they want their guys to make it to the big leagues. I think I really saw that in the way that we work in the weight room and use the technology in the lab and whatnot. And even on all the side fields with the TrackMan data, the Edgertronic data. It’s just an attribute to how we’re going to progress it as a whole, as an organization.
CPB – Your favourite major league team. Did you have a favourite team growing up?
TW – I did. I was a Cardinals fan. I was kind of the oddball out in my family. My brother and Dad were Cubs fans. My mom is actually from Maryland so she was an Orioles fan-slash-Washington Nationals fan. My brother just liked the Cubs so I went opposite. I wanted to like the Cardinals because he liked the Cubs.
CPB – Did you have a favourite player or pitcher?
TW – Albert Pujols. I obviously really liked the way he played back in the day. And even now, I guess he’s still playing. That’s crazy to think about but my favourite pitcher was Adam Wainwright. I always just kind of tried to follow the way he pitched and how he kept himself composed on the mound and really that’s what I view a true professional pitcher as.
CPB – Final question. Is there something someone should know about you that maybe they don’t? A hidden talent or a special skill you have that maybe people don’t know about?
TW – I can juggle. I know. Shout out Chad Dallas, jealous on the juggling. I can juggle, that’s about it. I’m decent at golf. I’ve gotten a lot better at golf since I stopped swinging a bat after college. So it’s not bad. But other than that, I like to cook. That’s a big one. There we go. I was trying to like think in my head, I’m like, ‘Which one’s going to be good? Cooking!’ In the season, I really like to cook my own meals and stuff and kind of make it so it’s like at least pleasurable while I’m dieting for myself.
- Uniform Numbers – Wore number 38 with Iowa. Wore number 35 in 2021 and 30 in 2022 with Dunedin.
- Twitter – @Twalley10
- Instagram – @twalley10
- Hawkeye/Blue Jays Connection – 2021 Blue Jay and 2018 C’s lefty Nick Allgeyer was Wallace’s teammate during his freshman year at Iowa.
- Class of the Classroom – A three-time Academic All-Big 10 selection.
Thanks a million again to Trenton Wallace and C’s broadcaster Tyler Zickel for this installment of C’s Chat.