Wise proud of The Catch, yearns for team success

Outfielder hopes to contribute to championship run with White Sox

Wise proud of The Catch, yearns for team success

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Long before Dewayne Wise reported with other White Sox position players to Spring Training, the team's projected fourth outfielder was a fixture at Camelback Ranch.

It wasn't his physical presence gracing the hallways of the South Siders' complex. It's a life-size, detailed photo of what would be considered the greatest single moment of Wise's Major League career covering parts of 10 seasons, hung on the wall about 15 steps down the hallway from the trainers' room.

With all due respect to Joe Montana, Dwight Clark and the 49ers' NFL dynasty or the great Willie Mays' spectacular defensive effort in the 1954 World Series, we'll call this Wise moment The Catch.

Mark Buehrle stood just three outs away from a perfect game during a beautiful afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field on July 23, 2009, when Gabe Kapler opened the ninth for Tampa Bay with a drive toward the left-center-field stands appearing destined for White Sox heartbreak. Wise, who was just put into the game by then-manager Ozzie Guillen as a defensive replacement, raced back toward the fence, leaped on the run and made an almost no-look grab as his body hit the picture honoring Billy Pierce's retired No. 19.

Wise even hung on to the ball as he juggled it while falling to the ground. He ensured Buehrle's perfect game, which the left-hander promptly finished off, and at the very least earned himself future invites to SoxFest even after he's no longer with the team via this singular herculean performance.

Being known for The Catch certainly doesn't bother the soon-to-be 35-year-old Wise. But in this extension of his second go-around with the White Sox that began late in 2012, he has bigger plans than resting on past heroics.

"I don't mind that when people hear my name, that's one of the first things they think about: That's the guy that made the catch," Wise said. "It's a good thing to be known for something than not to be known at all. But, yeah, I feel like I have more.

"This is nothing new [from last year]. I know my role. I just have to stay ready whenever I get the opportunity to go in there and help the ballclub. I got here early this spring. I want to show the staff that I'm ready."

After helping to beat the White Sox earlier in the 2012 season as part of the Yankees, Wise returned to the organization on Aug. 3. He provided another left-handed presence off the bench but actually played fairly regularly as Alejandro De Aza battled back stiffness and bruised left ribs, producing a respectable .258 average, five homers, 22 RBIs and 12 stolen bases.

Alex Rios, De Aza and Dayan Viciedo return to form what should be a solid 2013 outfield from right to left. But with the White Sox only featuring De Aza and Adam Dunn as left-handed hitters in the starting lineup and Viciedo hitting .225 against right-handed hitters in 2012, Wise and Jordan Danks become viable options especially against tough right-handed starters.

A more encouraging concept is that Wise found something in his offensive game that seemed to really click last season.

"Yeah, I did. I was telling people back at home that it's crazy, I felt like as I've gotten older, I've really understood the game a little bit more," Wise said. "It seems like I've gotten better. I'm talking from Triple-A and here, I feel like I've gotten better every year with age.

"I still feel good and working with [Yankees hitting coach] Kevin Long last year helped me out, turned my career around. It's something I wish I would have done a long time ago, maybe when I was in my late 20s. But things happen for a reason and I'm really thankful for my career to be playing this long. Just trying to keep it going."

As soon as Wise settled into the White Sox clubhouse almost one week ago, he quickly made his way down the hallway to see the picture. Wise stared at it with pride, as well as getting a chuckle out of one woman seated in the front row of the bleachers getting caught between going for the would-be home run and pulling back to let Wise make the catch.

Prior to this in-person viewing, Wise saw a copy of it a couple of years ago when he was building an indoor batting cage for his high school, Chapin, in South Carolina and called to get the photo for the cages. A person stood next to the photo in the copy sent to Wise, just so he could have an idea as to how big it actually was.

"Me and Buehrle are forever linked because of that play and because of his performance," Wise said. "It's a good thing on down the road for years to come, people will be talking about that."

Numerous key moments from the 2005 World Series championship adorn the same long wall as The Catch. That fact didn't go unnoticed by Wise, who would like to be part of a team celebratory moment the next time his actions are captured on film.

"If I was up there with the team after winning the World Series, that would be awesome," Wise said. "That would be the best thing in my career to be up there holding the World Series trophy."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.