Mike Wilson has been all smiles lately (Photo/M's)
APPLETON, Wisc. - Whether he’s hitting a booming home run, hanging out in the locker room, signing autographs or talking about losing a fly ball, right fielder Mike Wilson always seems to have a big smile on his face.
While this quiet guy is all smiles, he probably felt otherwise a few months ago. For the first two-and-a-half months of the season, many of Wilson’s teammates were tearing the cover off the ball. Wilson, a second round pick out of Booker T. Washington High (Tulsa, OK) in 2001, found himself struggling mightily. But things have changed for the Rattlers young right fielder. He has altered his approach and greatly improved his plate patience, which has paid great dividends for him.
“Everything’s coming together for him right now,” said Wisconsin Timber Rattlers hitting coach Tommy Cruz. “He’s doing a lot better, and I’m happy about it because we were a little upset about his approach before.”
Wilson entered Friday night’s game against Peoria batting .264 with 10 home runs and 43 RBI. That’s quite a contrast from early in the season, when he saw his batting average dip to the low .200s.
Wilson is a very different player than he was just a few months ago. Early on, he had very little patience at the plate and would routinely strike out swinging. It was a very frustrating problem given his impressive power and athleticism. When he was striking out with regularity in April and May, his best talents were going to waste far too often.
But Wilson’s fortunes have improved as the season has progressed. Gone is the old Mike Wilson who often played the part of the anxious young hitter looking to swing for the fences in every at-bat. Now Wilson has found a new role as one of the Rattlers top hitters, causing problems for every opposing pitching staff.
“Early on I think he was a little too anxious and unsure of how to handle situations,” said Wisconsin manager Scott Steinmann. “And now the more at bats he’s getting the more confidence he’s getting.”
The patience is something that has greatly helped Wilson. Now he is having a much easier time seeing the pitches and making better decisions. Early on in the season he focused more on hitting for power and found himself swinging at bad pitches and not making enough contact. Lately, particularly over the past month, he has shown a lot of maturity and become a much tougher out.
“I’ve just been slowing down, having good pitch selections, just relaxing at the plate and not trying to do too much,” said Wilson. “I’m just trying to see my pitches out, see the ball real good and put a good swing on it.”
When Wilson was drafted four years back, the Mariners saw him as a power-hitting outfielder with a strong arm in the field. And his stocky and muscular build leads one to the same conclusion. That power is something he’s learning to maximize by focusing more on making better contact.
“Tommy (Cruz) just tries to preach to me all the time just take it slow and don’t try to do too much, said Wilson. “Because I’m already big and strong just need to let my power work for me.”
Cruz also believes Wilson’s success stems from his ability to hit the ball to the opposite field, something that the hitting coach has emphasized with Wilson. It’s paid off.
Wilson has been giving fans a lot to cheer about lately, both with his improved hitting and his steady defense. And despite looking very intimidating on the field, whether he is belting monster home runs or crashing into the right field wall, Mike Wilson is a softy at heart. All you have to do is look at the smile.