Ian Wilson is at home on the baseball diamond. When there have been challenges away from the field, and when other young men in his Scarborough community have been lured down the wrong path, Wilson has sought refuge on the baseball diamond.
“It makes me a happier person,” the 17-year-old said. “I love baseball, and I love getting taught new things and trying to become a better player every day.”
Wilson has chosen baseball as his path, and he has quickly made a name for himself, not only within Toronto baseball circles but on the national level as well. In the spring, the outfielder joined the Canadian Junior National Team for the second time and played against professional competition in Florida.
“That was a whole other level,” Wilson said. “It was difficult, but that’s the level I want to get to. And I see myself there, I just have to work hard, keep hitting, doing my reps, and working on my weaknesses.”
Though he didn’t join the national team for its fall trip, Wilson says JNT manager Greg Hamilton had a lot of positive things to say about his game and his future.
“He told me not to worry,” Wilson said. “He said, ‘I know you’re going to be a baseball player,’ and he said to just keep working on things, like hitting the ball the other way. And that’s what I’ve been doing all year.”
Now, Wilson is hoping his hard work will pay off at Tournament 12, as he looks to impress Hamilton and other scouts and evaluators. Professional baseball is certainly on his mind, but Wilson says he’s particularly focused on wearing the red and white once again.
“I want to get asked back on Team Canada,” he said.
The Toronto Met is no stranger to Tournament 12, as he went 4-for-6 with a double and a pair of runs scored in last year’s event while playing for the Ontario-Green team. He played in the outfield, which he’s done for the past three years since making the transition from shortstop and third base.
Ryan McBride, Wilson’s coach with the 18U Toronto Mets, says Jason Chee-Aloy, who recruited Wilson from Scarborough, also deserves the credit for moving the youngster to right field, where his strong arm has been on display ever since. But it’s not just the arm that impresses McBride.
“His physical tools are obvious, but his instincts are incredible,” the Mets coach said. “He positions himself, batter to batter, very well. He knows where he’s supposed to be, and he’s always there when he needs to cover up. I’m not sure you can teach [those instincts], to be honest.”
Besides Wilson’s obvious physical tools, like his strength and bat speed, McBride says he is also keenly aware of the youngster’s attitude on the diamond and the fact that, at times, it may be his sanctuary.
“He’s an upbeat, positive guy,” McBride said. “He’s very centred. I think, in some ways, baseball may be a saviour for him. Having something like high-level baseball to dedicate a lot of hours to and help make smarter life decisions and stay out of questionable behaviour…I think baseball has been a great thing for him. And if he focuses and puts the work in, the sky’s the limit.”
– Follow Todd Devlin on Twitter @ToddDevlin