Cardinals Try to Impress Prep Star Wilson

St. Louis Cardinals 12th-round draft pick Austin Wilson received the VIP treatment at Busch Stadium on Wednesday.

ST. LOUIS – The Cardinals turned themselves into college coaches hosting a high-school recruit Wednesday at Busch Stadium when they welcomed 12th-round draft choice Austin Wilson and his family to town.

Wilson, a highly-touted prep outfielder from Harvard-Westlake high school in California, has not yet signed with the Cardinals. He was predicted to get selected in the first round but was passed over due to concerns about his willingness to sign a professional contract with a scholarship to baseball-power Stanford waiting for him.

Cardinals' vice president of scouting and player development Jeff Luhnow called the club's chances of signing Wilson "a long shot" the day they drafted him, but said they had nothing to lose by taking him in the 12th round.

They appear to have more of a chance to sign Wilson now, with his family wanting to pay their own way to St. Louis to see what playing for the Cardinals was all about. 

"Clearly Austin and his family wouldn't be here if they didn't have interest in signing or weren't seriously considering it," Luhnow said. "I'm not going to give you any odds yet because I don't know. We haven't gotten to that point of the discussion but this has to be a thrill for him and certainly it's going to give us an opportunity to see him in a different light."

The Cardinals fitted Wilson with a batting practice uniform, complete with a jersey that had his name on the back. He met virtually the entire team and chatted with several players before going out to right-field to take fly balls and make throws to second base. Outfielder Allen Craig served as his ‘host', walking him around and introducing him to several of the players.

His mom Ina Coleman soaked in the experience, snapping several photos of her son while in uniform.  Wilson was scheduled to take batting practice on the field but a rain storm hit and canceled batting practice before his group got to hit.

Wilson and his family were scheduled to meet with chairman Bill DeWitt Jr and general manager John Mozeliak while in town. Wilson was not made available to the media.

"We're glad that he took this opportunity," Luhnow said. "He's in town to come here and meet with the front office and see what it's like to be out on the field and get a taste of Busch Stadium and Cardinals fans. We're hoping that we all put our best foot forward and add more information to the family's decision. They have a big decision to make here in the next month or so whether to sign a professional contract or go to school."

Many expected the Cardinals to not have much of a realistic chance to sign Wilson with them also having Arkansas third baseman Zach Cox still unsigned. Cox was seen by some as the best hitter in the draft but he also fell to the Cardinals at No. 25 overall because of signability concerns.

But that may not be the case, as Luhnow said the Cardinals are making an attempt to sign all five of their remaining high-end draft picks.

"I do hope for a scenario where we get everyone signed and we are attempting to do that," Luhnow said. "If that happens, it will be a scouting directors dream come true. …We don't know until we get closer to what the real numbers are going to be, but that's the goal."

Still unsigned are pitchers Seth Blair and Jordan Swagerty from Arizona State and high school pitcher Tyrell Jenkins, who has a scholarship to play quarterback at Baylor.  Signing all five still likely remains a long shot, but it now appears less of a long shot than a month ago.

Just what would Luhnow call it if they were able to come to agreements with all five selections?

"Home run, slam dunk, grand slam, whatever you want to call it," Luhnow said. "Because all five of these players were discussed in the first round and if we get all five of them done, that's an incredible crop. But obviously it would cost some money so there's going to be a lot of people involved in that decision. …It's a big investment."



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