Hard-hitting Wallace hoping Toronto the final stop of his career

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BASEBALL

Brett Wallace has been changing organizations at a dizzying rate despite having a reputation of being a good, young left-handed hitting prospect.

He's currently rated as the Toronto Blue Jays' No. 2 prospect by Baseball America but is playing for his third different organization in less than a year. Toronto drafted Wallace out of high school but he elected to attend Arizona State University, where he was Pac-10 player of the year in 2007 and 2008.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -

Brett Wallace has been changing organizations at a dizzying rate despite having a reputation of being a good, young left-handed hitting prospect.

He's currently rated as the Toronto Blue Jays' No. 2 prospect by Baseball America but is playing for his third different organization in less than a year. Toronto drafted Wallace out of high school but he elected to attend Arizona State University, where he was Pac-10 player of the year in 2007 and 2008.

Toronto had designs on Wallace in the 2008 draft but was beaten to the punch by the St. Louis Cardinals. So the infielder went to spring training last year with the Cards before being dealt to the Oakland Athletics on July 31.

That was fine with Wallace as the A's were his favourite team growing up in the Bay area.

But Toronto finally landed Wallace on Dec. 16 as part of the deal that sent ace Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Jays obtained three prospects in pitcher Kyle Drabek, catcher Travis d'Arnaud and outfielder Michael Taylor from Philadelphia. Taylor was then sent to the A's for Wallace.

The frequent change of scenery has given him a different perspective.

"I think every team has its own distinctive way," he said. "The Cardinals are one way, the A's are one way and the Blue Jays are one way. It's kind of fun to get to know all the little things about each organization.

"The Cardinals were a veteran team that had a lot of guys who have been around for a long time and they were kind of set in their ways. They have a very distinctive way of going about their business. The A's are a kind of a hybrid, they're a mix between the two.

"Then this team, I think the biggest thing is that everyone on this team is so open to helping young guys, kind of working with everyone. I felt like the vibe when I first got here was I walked in and every single guy you see comes up shakes your hand, talks to you, wants to make you feel at home and help anyway he can. It's a fun environment to be around."

Wallace has been a third baseman in his professional career but did play some first base at ASU. The Blue Jays have him at first.

"All the veterans on this team are guys that understand that they were where we were once," Wallace said. "So they're all very open and that's really ideal for a young player to be around guys like that who want to help out."

And that includes incumbent Lyle Overbay, who Wallace says has been very helpful in teaching him about the position.

"Lyle's as good as they come over there so I get a chance to work with him," Wallace said. "I try pick his brain and get comfortable over there. He's been awesome.

"We were out there and there's a lot of things over years that he's been able to learn and pick up in games, practice and years of experience. He's the first guy to come over and talk to you about it and pass anything along that he can. He's been amazing."

Toronto selected Wallace in the 42nd round of the 2005 draft (1,253th overall) from Justin-Siena High School in Napa, Calif. However, they couldn't sign him because of the allure of playing at Arizona State.

"I wanted to play at ASU since I was a little kid," he said. "Obviously being a professional baseball player was my goal but I felt like going to ASU was a great option . . . The best decision was to go school."

The Jays had their sights set on Wallace in 2008, only to see St. Louis select him in the first round, 13th overall.

Last season, Wallace hit .293 with 20 homers and 63 RBI in 138 games split between double-A Springfield, triple-A Memphis and triple-A Sacramento.

He finished with Sacramento, hitting .302 with nine homers and 28 RBI in 44 games. He also had a .505 slugging percentage.

When Wallace is on his game, he can drive the ball to the opposite field with an inside-out swing. He has also shown in the minors he can handle left-handed pitching.

"The last two years I've actually hit better against left-handers than I have against right-handers," he said.

"It's one of those things, I feel if you can hit you can hit."

Organizations: Arizona State University, Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals Oakland Athletics Philadelphia Phillies Justin-Siena High School

Geographic location: Toronto, PORT CHARLOTTE, Philadelphia Napa, Calif. St. Louis Sacramento

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