By: Matt Present
Editor’s Note: Shortly after this article was published, Josh Wilson was traded from Texas to Cleveland, and now plays for AAA Columbus.
Josh Wilson was the first player to commit to returning to the Revs this offseason. Manager Mark Mason thought that following Wilson’s 18th professional season the infielder might be headed towards retirement, but Wilson knew he had something left in the tank.
“During a phone conversation I said, ‘I know this is more of a formality thing, but you’re done playing right?’” recalls Mason. “And he said ‘heck no I’m not done playing, I’ve already been in the gym for two weeks!’”
The former big leaguer returned to York ready to contribute as the Revs everyday shortstop, while remaining not too far from his hometown of Pittsburgh.
However just three days before opening day, Wilson got a phone call. The Revs were getting suited up to face Lancaster in their final exhibition game of the season, and Wilson was penciled in as the starting shortstop. But he never emerged from the tunnel as he was already in a car back to York, in a hurry to pack his bags and get to the airport the following morning. He’d been signed by the Rangers. Wilson was headed to Triple-A Round Rock where he had played 92 games in 2014.
“It all happened pretty quickly,” said Wilson, “and it was definitely unexpected. My agent called me after batting practice and told me he might have a job for me, and thirty minutes later he called again and said the Rangers wanted to sign me.”
Not only did Wilson return to a familiar team, but his manager, Jason Wood, was once a teammate of his, back when the two played for the Marlins Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque in the mid-2000s. Wilson was excited to reunite with Wood, and said that the Rangers are one of the few franchises that still look to bring in veterans from outside the organization. With this relationship and philosophy in mind, and a couple of injuries to the Express squad, Round Rock became the perfect fit.
York opened the season April 21st in New Britain, and that same day, Wilson made his debut for the Express, going 1-3 with a sacrifice fly in a loss to the Omaha Storm Chasers. Now twenty games into his season Wilson has stayed hot at the plate, batting well over .300 while playing second base, third base, and shortstop in Round Rock. While he did spend a week on the disabled list with a tight quad, Wilson hasn’t missed a beat, hitting four home runs and driving in 16 so far this season.
“It’s been awesome,” said Wilson. “I’ve been playing really well, and it’s been rejuvenating to get signed, I really wasn’t expecting that.”
The former third round draft pick of the then-Florida Marlins is now playing alongside players as young as 22 years of age, in other words, fourteen years his junior, but Wilson said he just tries to blend in, noting that his teammates have kept him current on music and pop culture. The veteran infielder just feels lucky to be out on the field, still living the dream. He plans to retire at the end of the season, but said that he wants to remain a part of the game, and has explored pursuing opportunities as a scout, or in a front office. Regardless of what path he decides to take, he said he wouldn’t be where he is now without his time in York.
“It was probably one of the best things I ever did,” said Wilson. “Honestly, going and playing in the Atlantic League, you really learn how much love and care guys have for the game, it was a really good reminder for me. Playing in York completely changed my perspective. I stopped worrying about what happened if I played well, or didn’t play well. I just went out and played. It was life changing. I just relaxed and had fun like I was in Little League again, and that experience has definitely carried into this season.”
While Wilson may no longer be present in the Revs clubhouse, he certainly left an impact on his teammates.
“From the experience that he had, guys looked up to him,” said former Revs third baseman Bryan Pounds, who played alongside Wilson on the left side of the York infield last season. “I think it’s also the way he plays the game, he plays the game hard, and coming in and just being another one of the guys.”
Pounds remembers many a late night, sitting around with Wilson and a couple of other guys, just chatting about baseball and life in general.
“When you get to play with a big leaguer, and someone that is down to earth like Josh it’s a really cool thing,” added Pounds.
“When he walked out of our clubhouse this year, we lost a leader amongst the players,” said Mason, “and that was a hit that we felt, and in some ways are still trying to recover from.” However, the skipper is also quick to point out that because of how Wilson carried himself, and his eagerness to share his knowledge with his teammates, many of them have become better, just from being around him.