Prior to the AppleSox’ game against the Yakima Valley Pippins, AppleSox owner Jose Oglesby and head coach Kyle Krustangel presented the 2019 Tommy Watanabe Award to AppleSox outfielder Johnny Sage, an incoming senior at Purdue University.
Two years ago, AppleSox pitcher Tommy Watanabe passed away unexpectedly late in the season. Watanabe had already been sent back home, but his loss was devastating to AppleSox players, workers and fans.
Watanabe was a pitcher for the AppleSox, but he was also so much more than that. He was an energetic young man who dreamed of playing for as long as he could. Tommy brought the type of energy and respect for the game that the AppleSox look for in every player that comes to Wenatchee.
Last season, the AppleSox created the Tommy Watanabe Award in remembrance of their former teammate. This award will be given at the end of every AppleSox season to a player who best exhibits Tommy’s spirit and his passion for AppleSox baseball.
“Tommy’s story represents what is pure about baseball and sport,” AppleSox owner Jose Oglesby said. “I wanted to recognize the current players that embody the spirit of community at the same time. Putting the two together lets us tie our present with our past.”
Sage comes to the ballpark with a smile on his face every day. He is always willing to give his time to chat with others, be they fans or opposing players. On the field, Sage invigorates the AppleSox whether it’s clubbing a double to right-center or diving for a fly ball in left field. He also keeps things light by imitating the opposing third-base coach and debating baseball skills with teammates. His head coach Kyle Krustangel affectionately calls him ‘Johnny AppleSox’ because of his hustle and performance.
“Johnny is a great example of the type of fine young men that we try to bring to Wenatchee,” AppleSox general manager Ken Osborne said. “We want these ballplayers to be excellent both on-and-off the field and Johnny is a great example of someone who make everyone around him feel great after speaking to him.”
On the field, Sage is equally impressive. Last year, he tied for the most walks (28), recorded the third-best on-base percentage (.442) and had the seventh-best batting average (.326) in the West Coast League. This summer, he is hitting .322/.424/.420 with 13 stolen bases and 26 RBI, both team-bests, entering tonight’s game.
Sage is the second winner of the Tommy Watanabe Award after Jacob Prater won the inaugural award a year ago. Sage played his final game with the AppleSox tonight before leaving to go back to school.