Left fielder LaMonte Wade off to solid season for the Lookouts

Left fielder LaMonte Wade off to solid season for the Lookouts

May 19th, 2017 by David Paschall in Sports - Professional

Lamonte Wade is safe as Mobile first baseman Luis Tejada drops the ball during the Chattanooga Lookouts' season opener last month at AT&T Field. Wade is in his first season with the team, but he's already making an impact in the Southern League.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga Lookouts left fielder LaMonte Wade

Chattanooga Lookouts left fielder LaMonte Wade

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

LaMonte Wade conquered a second conference as a college baseball player.

The Chattanooga Lookouts left fielder has been conquering the levels of the professional ladder ever since.

Wade is in his first season with the Class AA Lookouts and is in just his second full pro season since his three-year stint at the University of Maryland that began in the Atlantic Coast Conference and ended in the Big Ten. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder entered Thursday night's series opener at Biloxi hitting .316 with four home runs and 16 RBIs.

"It's been exciting," Wade said earlier this week. "I've made a couple of adjustments and am seeing some of the results. We've been playing really well together as a team. We're getting some solid pitching performances and are putting together some solid at-bats and runs up for the guys."

Wade factored prominently into Chattanooga's surge this month as the Lookouts went from fourth in the Southern League's North Division to a tie for first entering Thursday night.

"He's a hard worker," Lookouts first-year manager Jake Mauer said. "He wasn't where he wanted to be in those first couple of weeks, and there is a time where you adjust to a new league. He's always been a guy who's had good hand-eye coordination and knows the strike zone.

"He was maybe a little uncomfortable playing the outfield corners because he had been a center fielder, but he's past that. He looks way better in left now."

Wade is being groomed as a left fielder by a Minnesota Twins organization that hopes to be set at center for years to come with Byron Buxton, who played for the Lookouts in 2015.

"Left field is tough," Wade said. "These right-handers are taking big swings, and you don't know if they got it all or not. It's definitely been an adjustment."

Mauer managed Wade in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, last season, when Wade hit .280 with 27 RBIs in 56 games in the Single-A Midwest League before being promoted to Fort Myers in the high Single-A Florida State League. In 32 games there, he hit .318 with 24 RBIs.

Wade hit .260 and .247 with a combined 63 RBIs during his first two seasons (2013-14) at Maryland, which were the last two years the Terrapins competed in the ACC. In his lone year in the Big Ten, he hit a robust .335 with four homers and 32 RBIs in 42 games before becoming Minnesota's ninth-round pick in the 2015 draft.

"Switching conferences was kind of weird, but I liked it," Wade said. "We got to see new places after playing in the ACC. We were able to win the Big Ten and went to the super regional, so I enjoyed my time there."

Not all the Terrapins athletes, however, liked leaving the ACC, Wade said.

"I would say it was 50-50," he said. "A lot of people liked those ACC rivalries, especially our basketball players. Others welcomed it with open arms and accepted the new challenge. It's still a little weird not seeing UNC and UVA on the schedule."

Although Wade has been plenty effective more than a month into his Double-A debut season, he knows change is constant and that he can't let up.

"These pitchers are really good here," he said, "and I feel like we've been making our adjustments. I think we're going to be all right."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.