Wilson enjoys being out of the spotlight
CARY, N.C.—Ross Wilson doesn't really want the spotlight anymore. He got an overload of it in high school.
In USA Baseball's college national team trials, the sophomore second baseman from Alabama isn't one of the guys yelling jokes or encouragement from the dugout. Instead, he deals mainly in the quiet word, and the only way to tell he's even said anything is his teammate's smile.
See, Wilson is Ross Wilson who, as the starting quarterback for Hoover (Ala.) High School, also starred in MTV's reality miniseries "Two-A-Days." And while the cameras once came all the way into his home, he now relishes the relative obscurity of collegiate baseball—especially at football-centric Alabama.
"I don't really like the media attention all that much," Wilson said. "I got enough of it when I was in high school."
But even on a team composed of some of the best underclassmen in the nation, Wilson's quickness and defense stand out and give evidence as to why his baseball career is making the notoriety he gained in high school a thing of the past.
And now, whenever a ball is hit to the second-base gap at the National Training Complex, it finds nothing but the glove of Wilson, and one lightning-quick turn later, it finds the glove of the first baseman or shortstop for an out.
Wilson's body turns with military precision and he's rarely out of position, which allowed him to turn at least three double plays so far in the national team trials.
"He turns the double play really well, he's got good hands," coach Rick Jones (Tulane) said. "And when you talk about a guy having good hands in the middle you're really saying he's got good feet. He's got good feet and good feel and he's really a good player."
In two years at Alabama, Wilson has already tied the freshman record for home runs (15 in 2008) and will return for his junior season as the Crimson Tide's best returning hitter. In his sophomore year, Wilson was a preseason All-American and hit .353/.454/.567 with nine home runs.
That resume, combined with his stellar play thus far in trials, led to his Team USA invite.
"I think it'd be awesome," Wilson said of making the roster (he wound up not making it). "I remember my senior year of high school I went and watched them play. And that was always a goal of mine. So being asked here is a great opportunity."
It would seem that Wilson is doing a stellar job of living down his dual legacies of being "that kid from Two-A-Days" and the little brother of former Alabama quarterback John-Parker Wilson—two things that fans in the SEC manage to remind him of constantly.
"I've heard it all, it doesn't really bother me at all," he said. "It's all exactly the same. . . People laugh, but none of them are that funny."
Wilson and Alabama got the last laugh often enough with a 37-21 record and regional bid. He also has to keep a sense of perspective.
"I don't really have time to miss it," he said. "You come here in the summer time right after you get out of school and then you go straight into fall practice and then straight into spring and then you're back playing summer again. Maybe a little bit but not anything crazy."
Wilson was pondering going to Harwich in the Cape Cod League but also could take the summer off. As long as he progresses on hte diamond, Wilson will no longer be John-Parker's littler brother or "that kid from Two-A-Days." He'll be Ross Wilson, baseball player.
Solidifying Team USA
Anchoring Team USA's defense up the middle is shortstop Christian Colon, recently arrived from Cal State Fullerton. Colon, who played for Team USA last summer, wasted no time in displaying not only his defense but also his hitting once he arrived from the College World Series. He had an RBI in each of his first three games with the USA team, and a three more in another game.
"Christian's such a talented player," Jones said. "Another guy from a tremendous program. He's a really good athletic player, good baseball instincts and good feel."
And while Colon needed no time to warm up to a wood bat, center fielder Michael Choice (UT Arlington) has spent the trials showing off his tremendous power. In an intrasquad game, Choice hit a home run that almost cleared the 50-foot high batter's eye in center field 400 feet away.
"He got a couple mistakes and he did what you want him to do," Jones said. "So that's encouraging."
Blake Forsythe and Yasmani Grandal both showed promise behind the plate, while 2008 catcher and 2009 invite Micah Gibbs remained with Louisiana State in Omaha.
Among the host of arms that Jones has to choose from, Coastal Carolina's lefty Cody Wheeler and Vanderbilt's Sonny Gray both stood out. Wheeler in particular feasted on batters adjusting to wood bats early in the trials, sporting a nasty breaking pitch that he wasn't afraid to throw inside. Jones also mentioned Texas Tech righthander Chad Bettis, who reached 96 mph in the trials.
• The Cape Cod League's early stars were both lefthanders. Eric Pfisterer (Duke) had not given up a hit or run in his first 12 innings for Wareham, striking out 17 and walked three. Rising junior Chris Sale (Florida Gulf Coast), pitching for Yarmouth-Dennis, was leading the league with 20 strikeouts in 14 scoreless innings.
• The Alaska League's Goldpanners of Fairbanks beat the Lake Erie Monarchs of the Great Lakes League 6-3 in the 104th annual Midnight Sun Game. Alaskan Sean Timmons, who has pitched in the Alaska League since 1994, got the last three innings for the save.