July 6, 2011
After finishing his senior year of high school, Jay Wade sat at a local restaurant with his dad watching the 2010 SEC Baseball Tournament on television. Having already made his decision to play for Auburn, he sat and watched the Tigers take on Alabama in their first appearance at the SEC Tournament since 2003.
"I was sitting there thinking `I'll be on that team next year,'" Wade said. "I kept thinking about what an awesome experience it would be to pitch in the SEC Tournament."
In his freshman season at Auburn, Wade had the opportunity to do just that.
On May 25, 2011, Wade took the mound in relief against South Carolina in Auburn's first game at the 2011 SEC Tournament. He threw just one inning, but struck out one of the three batters he faced. Auburn would lose the game to the eventual national champions, 7-3, but for Wade, the experience was like none other.
"It was a dream come true," Wade said.
A native of Bremen, Ga., the rising sophomore always knew that he wanted to play at Auburn. His father, Michael, attended school on the Plains, and Wade grew up a Tigers fan because of it.
"I grew up really close to Auburn and I've been coming to Auburn for a long time," Wade said. "When I was born, I was wearing Auburn stuff. It's been an unbelievable experience just being able to play. I tell people all the time what a dream come true it actually is because I've been saying `War Eagle' for a long time."
Down the stretch during the 2011 season, Wade was given the opportunity to take the mound and see what he was capable of doing. He threw 10 1/3 innings in nine appearances without allowing an earned run on 11 hits, walking eight and striking out nine. Despite not throwing a significant number of times, the righty was thankful for the experience and the opportunity just to be a part of the team.
"Being a part of that Auburn staff this year was an incredible experience," Wade said. "We sort of have our own fraternity and we're all brothers out there and off the field, too."
Wade also recognized the value of not just being on the field, but learning from different veteran players on the team during his first season. He took notes and paid attention, and says it eventually paid off later on in the year.
"Some of the guys like (senior catcher) Tony Caldwell, they kind of sat us down early and as freshmen, we were kind of reaching out not knowing who was going to accept us or who was going to push us and allow us to show all that we could. Tony helped a lot of us out. He sat me down at the beginning of the season and told me I could go as far as I wanted to go and to never stop working. He probably got so annoyed because I asked him so many questions on what he would do in different situations, and once I got into those situations, I was actually able to succeed because of some of the advice he had given me."
Having finished his first season at Auburn, Wade is still eager to put that advice to good use as he develops his game. He was selected to play for the Valley Baseball League's Staunton Braves, out of Staunton, Va. It has given Wade the opportunity to improve over the summer, but also to experience a style of play different from that of the collegiate game.
"It's been a heck of an experience so far. I'm meeting a lot of new guys and just being able to learn more about the game of baseball," Wade said. "It's more of a professional setting where day in and day out, you're playing. We play the same amount, 22 home and 22 away. It's been an experience with that in itself."
Wade has also noticed the incredible response by the community in Staunton to having a summer league team to call its own.
"You don't really realize that you're such a big part of the community until you're there and you've got little kids coming up to you asking for autographs," Wade said. "It's definitely a baseball town, and it feels like everybody in the whole town comes to our games. It feels like they know who you are after our games. It's sort of wild, actually. They live for the summer leagues up here."
by Mae Margaret Davis, Auburn Media Relations
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