Former Terps Star LaMonte Wade Jr. Credits Maryland’s Matt Swope For Breakout Season 

Outfielder and first baseman LaMonte Wade Jr. played in just 16 games and had 44 plate appearances for the Minnesota Twins in 2020, when he batted .231/.318/.308. Wade was traded to the San Francisco Giants following the season, and he knew he needed to tweak his swing.

That’s when he turned to a familiar face. During the 2020-21 offseason, Wade reached out to Maryland assistant coach and hitting coach Matt Swope, who helped fix his swing, resulting in a breakout season for Wade, who turned 28 this offseason.

Wade, a Baltimore native and St. Paul’s graduate, played his college ball at Maryland. In 159 games with the Terps, Wade batted .275/.394/.385 and was a key part of two NCAA Tournament teams (2014 and 2015).

During his time at Maryland, Wade developed a great relationship with Swope and continued to keep in touch with him on a regular basis after departing. So after a tough 2020 season, Wade knew Swope could be a great resource.

“[I] let him know, ‘Something’s got to change,'” Wade said on Glenn Clark Radio Feb. 23. “I needed to be more efficient, needed more consistency.”

Wade and Swope decided to meet up during the offseason to try to figure out what Wade wanted to accomplish for the following season. Then after that, it was time to get to work.

“He came over to the house and we talked for three to four hours that first day to just kind of map out the plan,” Swope told PressBox. “And to give him all the credit, he drove down here three days a week all the way from Towson almost to hit before our practices and stuff. And the rest is kind of history. … All the credit goes to him for putting in the time.”

During the time the two were working together, Swope told Wade everything he saw and what he thought should change. Swope said that because Wade wasn’t having a ton of success, he was interested in trying anything to make improvements.

At the time, Wade had played in just two big-league seasons. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound outfielder/first baseman had appeared in a total of 42 games with the Minnesota Twins, the team that drafted him in the ninth round of the 2015 MLB Draft.

“I was open to do anything to try to make it work, to become a better hitter,” Wade said. “We took that whole offseason and we completely overhauled the swing and the thought and the mind process behind everything.”

While hitting can be a very complicated art, Wade tried to break down his swing the best way he could. The tweaks all started with his stance. Wade explained that Swope thought he should stand straight up, with his bat not starting so far behind him.

The next part that needed to change was his plan of attack. This was the biggest change, according to Wade. In the past, Wade had allowed the ball to travel deep instead of attacking the baseball out in front of the plate. Wade explained that by changing this, he was able to square up the ball more often and hit for more power.

The changes certainly paid off for Wade the following season. He started off the 2021 campaign in the minors, but he played just 14 games before being called up. Wade played in 109 games with the Giants, batting .253/.326/.482 with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs. Wade was also a prolific clutch hitter last season, earning him the nickname “Late Night LaMonte.”

Late-and-close situations are defined by plate appearances in the seventh inning or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one or the tying run at least on deck. Wade batted 17-for-47 for a .362 average in such situations. In addition, Wade hit .565 with 12 RBIs in 23 at-bats in the ninth inning and went 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs in extra-inning at-bats.

“Honestly, throughout the season I paid no attention to it whatsoever, just so locked into the moment,” Wade said about his late-game heroics. “But now that you look back on it, I’m just very appreciative of [Giants manager Gabe Kapler] having that trust in me in those situations and allowing me the opportunity to get those hits.”

The clutch hits came to no surprise to Swope, who thinks Wade is so successful in high-pressure situations because of the type of person he is.

“He’s just one of those guys that is just even-keeled all the time,” Swope said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the World Series, the first game of the year, the 72nd game of the year, he’s the same cat.”

Swope said he is constantly keeping an eye on Wade throughout the season, and the two text one another every day. Swope said he watches every at-bat Wade has and will send him feedback, mostly about his decision-making and the psychological side of baseball rather than the mechanics.

As a result of all the hard work and time these two have put in, Wade makes sure to give credit where it’s due. Wade promotes Swope’s hitting program and brand, called Maryland Made Hitting, in his Twitter bio. There was no conversation between the two about this, but Wade took it upon himself to make sure that he gave Swope some publicity.

“Guys have always asked me what’s my philosophy, and I always say it’s not mine, it’s Matt’s,” Wade said. “And then I try to direct them to him and they go from there. I have no shame in saying that.”

While waiting for the lockout to end, Wade and Swope are back together again, continuing to work at the University of Maryland, where Wade hopes to build the foundation for another successful season for the Giants.

“It’s been great, the guys have been very welcoming,” Wade said about being around the Maryland baseball team. “They’ve got a very good team. They’re very receptive when I talk to them and then they also bring up good questions and I try to answer them the best I can.”

For more from Wade, listen to the full interview here: