By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
Heading into his first season of Mid-American Conference play with the Bowling Green Falcons, former Great Lake Canadians outfielder Jake Wilson has already added a couple of collegiate accolades to his baseball resume.
As conference previews continue to roll out to begin the year, the 18-year-old centre fielder from New Lowell, Ont., was named the MAC pre-season freshman of the year by both Baseball America and D1 Baseball after opting to fulfill his commitment to BGSU after being selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 39th round of last year’s draft.
“It’s flattering that they’ve noticed me and that some of my hard work has finally paid off and they see that I’m doing alright,” Wilson said. “But for me it doesn’t mean that much right now because I still have to prove myself. I have to prove myself every game and every inning and every pitch that comes by, so I can’t take anything for granted. I still have to go out there and play hard.”
Understanding that there is still much work to be done, and that there might even be some added pressure with the increased amount of time in the spotlight, Wilson knows that the pre-season honours mean a lot for the people who have helped him to get to where he is now.
“It’s pretty cool for them,” he said. “It’s nice to see when hard work finally pays off, and you get to see the end result and witness it, it’s just a great feeling. I’m sure my parents and friends and coaches feel the same.”
Among the six players from the Canadian Premier Baseball League who were drafted during the circuit’s inaugural season last June, Wilson was the only one who chose to head to university. Enjoying his time, the team, and everything the experience has to offer so far, the exercise science major is confident he made the right decision.
“Going to pro ball was just not a financially feasible option for myself and my family, plus I still have a lot of room to grow,” the 6-foot, 164-pound outfielder said. “I’ve got to get stronger, so the best road for me and my family was definitely going to school. I might as well get some schooling out of the way while I can, and a lot of it’s paid for, which is a bonus.”
Wilson became the second Great Lake Canadians graduate on the Falcons roster when he headed to Ohio, joining right-handed sophomore hurler Mat Szabo. As confident as the Canadians were when they sent Szabo off, they knew when Wilson headed to BGSU that he would be just as ready for the next step, and are proud of his pre-season recognition.
“That’s obviously a huge testament to him as a player,” said Adam Stern, Great Lake’s director of player development and manager of the 18U team. “For him to go into a program and be ready to impact that program as a freshman, that’s what every young player wants to do, to walk into a four-year school and be able to at least be in consideration to be an everyday guy. Obviously with Jake and the way he prepares, we knew with the way he finished last year that he was ready to go in there and be a part of that program, and in the end, be a big part of that program.”
Wilson gives credit right back to the program that he left behind, believing that his coaches and the environment were what helped him to prepare for what he was walking into, and giving him a head start on what he would face in his first year of college.
“When I was with GLC, they really gave me the college vibe when I was playing,” he said. “They’re more like college coaches, and they prepared me for what I should expect when I go away. With them doing that, that definitely put me a little ahead of the other freshmen. Everything they did, I appreciate it so much because it has helped me a lot.”
So far, Wilson has felt very comfortable with his new squad and his new school. Getting out on the field in a limited capacity before the winter weather hit, he even got a chance to see how he would fare at the collegiate level among the Falcons players, and was happy with the results.
“In the fall we had intersquad games, and we had the Orange and Brown World Series,” he said. “We split off into two teams and played each other, and I played pretty well in that. I was the leadoff hitter for my team, playing centre field, and I believe I batted .365 in that with a couple RBI. I felt comfortable playing at the college level…
“It’s a lot of fun here. Classes are going very well and all the guys on the team get along so well. We’re just having a great time playing baseball, working out, and conditioning together.”
With opening weekend just around the corner, and the Falcons facing the Texas A&M Aggies to kick the season off, Wilson is excited to see what his team can do and looking forward to much more of the college experience.
“I feel really confident about the season,” he said. “The whole team has been putting in a lot of work in the off-season, conditioning and lifting hard, and what these guys have done is just unbelievable. I’ve never witnessed an atmosphere like this. I’m really excited for this season because I feel like we’re going to do very well.”