Swinging for the fences

By Jack Davis

From the first day he ever stepped on the baseball diamond, parents, coaches, scouts and teammates alike have all raved about Austin Wilson’s ’10 potential.

As a freshman, Wilson was the youngest player on Varsity and ended the year as the team’s cleanup hitter. As a sophomore, he began to fill out his 6’4 frame and turn the heads of scouts across the country.

As a junior, the Franklin field bleachers filled up every game with scouts eager to get a glimpse of the rapidly improving Wilson, who was starting to be dubbed a potential first round pick.

This summer, his production began to match his potential.

Wilson’s hectic summer baseball schedule began in June when he flew to Minnesota for an Aflac Showcase. Playing in showcases like these are common for top high school baseball players like Wilson as at these showcases, top players across the country are invited to play against each other in front of big league scouts. From Minnesota, Wilson flew to North Carolina for the Tournament of Stars, spending a week there before flying to Georgia to meet up with his club team, the ABD Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are the number one ranked club team in the nation with some of the top players in the country, yet Wilson credits his club teammates with help keeping him grounded.

“My club, we get on each other. If one of us makes an error, all the others make sure he doesn’t forget about it, if one of us hits a homerun, we don’t let him get too excited about it. “

After playing in Georgia for a week, Wilson headed back home to Los Angeles for three weeks to play with Harvard-Westlake before making yet another trip, this time to Santa Barbara. In Santa Barbara, Wilson works with a specialized trainer and trains with other highly ranked high school baseball prospects, college players, and in some cases, pro baseball players.

From Santa Barbara, Wilson drove to Long Beach for the prestigious Area Code games, one of the premier high school baseball showcases. However, making life complicated for Wilson and adding stress to his already hectic summer traveling, was a scheduling conflict.

Wilson was invited to play in the Under Armour All-American game Aug. 8 at the historic Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. While Wilson quickly accepted the invite to the Under Armour game, there was one problem. Area Code games were still being played and Wilson would have to leave his Area Code team to go to Chicago, play in the Under Armour game, and then fly back to Los Angeles before driving back to Long Beach to play a week more of Area Code games.

“It was crazy,” Wilson said. “My parents had to do a lot of flying with me this summer.”

So Wilson played three Area Code games then landed in Chicago on Aug. 7 and had to quickly prepare for the most important game of his life the next day. In Chicago, Wilson dealt with something he had never dealt with before, autograph hounds.

“In Chicago for the first time I would walk on to the field and all these little kids would be screaming my name asking for autographs.”

And while the majority of autograph seekers were kids, not all were.

“It was weird to see random 40 year-old guys holding balls and stuff asking me to sign,” Wilson said. “The fact that all these people knew who I was and came to see me play was pretty surreal.”

A lot more people would know Wilson’s name soon.

The game was televised on ESPNU and Fox Sports with ESPN announcers and former MLB executives Steve Phillips and Keith Law announcing.

In his first at-bat, Wilson stepped up to the plate against Karsten Whitson, the number three ranking high school pitcher in the nation, and with tens of thousands watching, hit a home run to deep left center.

“Rounding the bases was crazy with people cheering me on and the crowd getting into it. I got to home plate and thought ‘Wow I just hit a home run at Wrigley Field.’”

After the conclusion of Area Code games, Wilson made yet another trip, this time a three hour drive to San Diego to play in the Aflac All-American game, which is considered the most prestigious of any of the All-American games and tournaments.

In the game itself, Wilson went 1 / 3 with a single, but walked away more in awe of the crowd than the actual game.

“It felt like a big league game,” Wilson said.

After Aflac was over, Wilson did something he hadn’t been able to do in months: take a break from baseball.

“That might have been the weirdest feeling of all,” Wilson said.

While in the end of August Wilson got a break from baseball action, there was still plenty going on that had to do with his baseball career.

Wilson gave a verbal commitment to continue his baseball career at Stanford, a school that had always been Wilson’s first choice.

Still, Wilson hears the whispers of scouts, friends, and even fans. He could be one of the top picks in next June’s baseball draft and be faced with the choice of the pros or school.

Yet despite what could be a distraction, Wilson remains grounded and focused on playing his senior year of high school.

“All the MLB stuff depends on how I do this year, and my main goal and main focus is to get H-W to the City Championships. All the other stuff, that’s in the back of my head, I’m just thinking about Harvard-Westlake and my senior year.”