Mike Wilson: Character Power
A mob of youngsters ran through a hole in the chain-linked fence that separates the clubhouse from Everett Memorial Stadium. One after another darted through, swarming Aquasox OF Mike Wilson for autographs. This is after he had signed autographs for twenty minutes outside the fence, and for 30 minutes after all of his teammates had walked off to the showers. But Mike stays signing his name endlessly on baseball gloves, cards, and t-shirts, because that's the kind of guy Mike Wilson is. And of course hitting a towering game-winning grand slam before a packed house doesn't hurt the cause either.
"Mike brings the threat of power (to the plate)," said fellow Sox outfielder Casey Craig. "Every time he gets up to the plate he puts a good swing on (the ball) and you think he is going to hit a home run."
And just by the look of the 21-year-old former high school football standout, it's not hard to tell his bat can pack one heck of a punch.
Listed generously in the 2004 Mariners Information Guide at 6-2 (he looks more like 5-10) and 215 lbs, he is a compact ball of muscle, uncommon to the prototypical under-developed prospects at the lower levels of the minor leagues.
Fittingly, Wilson grew up admiring baseball and football star Bo Jackson.
"I idolized Bo Jackson," Wilson said. "Because he was the baseball-football guy, and that's kind of like me. I didn't play football in college or nothing, but he had a big body like me, we're kind of the same."
Like Jackson, Wilson is respected both on and off the field for his physical presence and power. Just ask Aquasox Manager Pedro Grifol.
"His power is his greatest strength," Grifol said. "(Mike) has the ability to hit home runs, that ability not many people have in this game and he's got it."
Of course, Dust Devil reliever Adam Bright wishes that Grifol would have shared that information with him a little earlier. Oh, say like right before Bright threw an 0-1 pitch to Wilson that landed in British Columbia.
You might be surprised to hear what aspect of Mike's game that he most wants to improve.
"Base stealing," Wilson said. "In high school I was a base stealer, but this year I haven't really had that much time to steal bases because of the situations. But other than that I wouldn't mind turning into one a little bit." Currently Wilson has stolen four bases, and has been caught stealing four times as well.
Grifol disagrees with Wilson's self assessment.
"I don't think (stealing bases) is what is going to get Mike Wilson to the big leagues," Grifol said. "I think what is going to get Mike Wilson to the big leagues is his bat, and if his bat talks then that is what is going to get him there. I don't think speed, or stealing bases is going to get him there."
"But he's an extremely hard worker," the Sox veteran manager continued. "He's a great kid and we're taking baby steps right now in the right direction."
If you were to look at Wilson's stats, however, you might be mystified as to what that right direction may be. For a guy with as much touted power as Wilson, the shocking truth is that through 32 games this year Wilson has just two home runs!
What?! Okay calm down, that's the bad news, but maybe hsi skipper can put it in perspective for us.
"(Mike) only has a couple of home runs," Grifol said. "So it's not something that he is bringing to the table every day, but we are taking baby steps, and he has that kind of (power stroke) ability.
"(Remember)," Grifol proceeded, "this is his first time playing under the lights, really playing in front of people. (Mike) has the ability to do a lot of things. We're just working on consistency now."
So the good news is that the former second-round draft pick has enormous potential, and if he could get base thievery off of his mind, maybe he could put up some Bo Jackson type numbers sooner rather than later.
So what does he have to work on to put up Jackson-esque stat-lines?
"Plate discipline, and pitch recognition," Craig said of his teammate. And plate discipline is something Craig knows a lot about, he is currently third in the NWL in walks with 27, compared to Wilson's 12.
Craig also praised Wilson's work ethic.
"He's being more selective. He doesn't swing at that stuff in the dirt any more, (and) he's starting to lay back and drive the ball now. He's getting a lot of doubles and triples."
And oh yeah, the really great news; Wilson is a wonderful person. To see him entertain kids on his way to the clubhouse and patiently talk to fans the way he did after hitting a game-winning grand slam, says volumes about the character of Mike Wilson.
Or as Casey Craig more aptly put it- "Everyone likes him, he's a good guy, you can't not like Mike."
Sean is currently a Junior at the University of Puget Sound and welcomes your feedback at SDuade@ups.edu
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