Second-Rounder Wilson Looks to Fulfill Dream With Red Sox
|06.23.09 at 6:47 am ET|
LOWELL –Since Alex Wilson was three years old, he’s been dreaming of playing professional baseball, and on Monday his dream came true as he signed with the Boston Red Sox for a bonus of nearly half a million dollars – not too shabby for a 22-year-old straight out of college.
But for the time being, he’ll be living his dream out in Donahue Hall, one of UMass-Lowell’s dormitories located right next to the Single-A Spinners’ LeLacheur Park. It has no TV, no Internet, and during the school year is home to 349 male and female undergraduates.
“It’s not living the luxurious life that everyone may think it is,” Wilson says. “I promise you that.”
While it may not necessarily be the “luxurious” life of a professional baseball player, for now it’s a start to what looks like a promising career for the young pitcher. Wilson, who was drafted by the Sox in the second round of the 2009 draft (77th overall), features a low- to mid-90s fastball, a slider, a curveball and a changeup that he says he’s still working on. Baseball America ranked Wilson the 52nd best prospect in the country, and he was second in the Big 12 in strikeouts with 120.
Originally from Saudi Arabia, Wilson was born there while his father was stationed in the region working as a geologist for Saudi Aramco. The family was only there for another year and a half before moving to West Virginia, which is where the Wilsons still reside to this day.
Wilson has always been a standout player. At Hurricane High School in Hurricane, W.Va., the right-hander was a three-time all-conference, all-county, and all-state honoree who was named West Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year and threw a perfect game during his senior campaign.
In 2006, Wilson was a starter during his freshman year at Winthrop University, going 13-3 with a 3.78 ERA before being named Collegiate Baseball’s National Freshman Pitcher of the Year. He replicated his success during his sophomore year as he went 6-4 with a 2.51 ERA.
But after throwing over 249 innings in his first two years at Winthrop, Wilson injured his elbow and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the torn ligament.
“For a baseball player, hearing that news is like the end of world,” he says.
Not too long after, he decided to leave Winthrop to go play at Texas A&M.
“I had a great start at Winthrop and I couldn’t argue with my numbers or what I was doing, it was just that I got used a little too much,” Wilson says. “I figured if I was going back to school, why leave myself in the same situation?”
After successful surgery and a full recovery, Wilson began rehabbing for Falmouth in the Cape Cod League – an experience that he says helped him get to the level he’s at today.
“They were throwing me out there every fifth day when I was supposed to be even if I had a rough outing because they were really concerned with just letting me progress as a player,” he says. “It’s rare you come across a situation like this when you’re trying to rehab in one of the better leagues in the country.”
Wilson’s recovery was advanced enough that he was able to work out for teams prior to the 2008 draft. The Red Sox, in fact, brought him to Fenway Park and seriously considered taking him last June, but instead, it was the Cubs who selected the pitcher in the 10th round with the 311th overall pick.
But Wilson decided not to sign with Chicago. He describes their offer – believed to have been $600,000, or less than half of the first-round money that he was seeking last year – as “sub-par.”
He called Coach Rob Childress at A&M to let him know that he’d be returning to play the following season, and in 2009 – his first full season since recovering from surgery – was converted from a starter to a reliever. Wilson said that he was able to get his fastball to sit comfortably again at 94 mph, and started throwing his curveball and slider a lot more as his out-pitches.
The young flamethrower “fell right into place,” he says, and had no trouble adjusting to playing on a bigger stage as he went 6-6 with a 4.22 ERA in over 89 innings of work. Moreover, the decision to transfer allowed Wilson to fulfill a lifelong dream. Growing up Wilson idolized former Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, so when Boston selected him 77th overall in the 2009 draft, it was a more than ideal situation.
“It was just kind of a dream come true getting a phone call saying, ‘Hey the Red Sox just picked you up,’” Wilson says. “I was pretty ecstatic about that.”
Though it was difficult to leave A&M after such a short period of time, Wilson knew that playing for the Sox was a special opportunity he may never again get.
“I’ll miss forgoing my senior year, but I think I’m where I’m supposed to be,” he says.
As a university studies major with minors in psychology and sports management, Wilson only has one semester left until he finishes his degree, and he plans to do so in the off-season.
For now though, the hard-throwing pitcher will start making his way toward the big leagues. He has fully recovered from injury and is ready to move back to his natural role as a starter – something he will begin doing soon in Lowell as prepares to move to the five-day rotation. There, he plans to work on his changeup and adjust to a heavier workload.
“They’re going to take it easy with me and mold me to where they want me to be,” he says.
Soon enough, Wilson hopes to completely fulfill his dream by pitching at Fenway for the team he grew up loving.
“That’s definitely the goal. I don’t think anybody comes in here not wanting to do that,” said Wilson. “I think I can do it, I’m confident enough in myself that I can pitch at that level. I just need to put my time in and work my way through the ranks to get there.”
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