Amid the rowdiness before game time, pitcher Tommy Wilson finds peace while he mentally prepares before the first pitch is thrown.
“I like to say a little prayer, just for my safety, and having fun rather than success and that kind of thing. That’s my only routine,” Wilson said.
At 7, Wilson began to play baseball at Valley Christian Athletic Association in Encino, California. The initial goal was to make friends and step out of his comfort zone. It was there that his family began to notice his athletic ability.
“He was pretty natural at it,” his mother Caroline Wilson said. “Early on, it was pretty evident that he was pretty good at baseball.”
By 8, Wilson learned to pitch and began to take the mound.
“He was always a big guy, so even when he was 8, for his age, he threw hard,” his cousin Josh Thomas said.
However, Wilson’s transition to high school ball was difficult. He said it was a “big jump” from VCAA.
During his freshman year at Notre Dame High School, he tried out without knowing a single person on the team. After playing first base his first year on the freshman team, he was promoted to varsity in his sophomore year as a pitcher.
“Somebody slid into second base and had a very serious injury to his ankle, and they were really worried about losing any more pitchers,” Thomas said. “It was their number two pitcher at the time, so he ended up getting promoted as a result, and he was tested early because he was facing varsity guys sooner than they had originally planned.”
At first, Wilson was hesitant and he would have to refrain from hitting. However, he realized that pitching was where his future was and accepted his role.
According to fullertontitans.com, Wilson won the team MVP award in 2014 as a senior with a 1.06 ERA. That year, he signed with Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California to play baseball.
Shortly after, Wilson discovered that what he had mistaken for growing pains, was a broken bone in his knee that required surgery the summer after he graduated high school.
However, that did not stop him from traveling north to play baseball, where he faced more hard times in Moraga.
Wilson felt ready to compete, but his coaches thought otherwise. After a suggestion to redshirt, he sat out for his first season of college ball. It was then that he decided to come back to Southern California and play for Pierce.
“Saint Mary’s wasn’t the right fit for me. It didn’t feel like my place. I didn’t feel comfortable there so I transferred back to Pierce,” Wilson said.
Last year was Wilson’s first season at Pierce. However, he began to doubt his abilities and second guess playing baseball.
“I was just pitching to pitch, thinking this might be my last year of baseball,” Wilson said. “Overcoming my own thoughts that I am not good enough was probably my biggest obstacle. Then when I got past that, by the end of last year, that’s when I started to figure things out.”
He then reached out to Picketts and had a conversation about his lack of confidence. Picketts recognizes this as an issue at Division 1 schools that want players to produce for them immediately.
“It’s not as much about development and if you have any doubt about your ability, it’s going to get exploited,” Picketts said. “Winning is not a to priority here by any means. It’s about getting the kids in here, getting them ready to go off to the next level and gaining their confidence. It sounds like we did it with him, hopefully he carries that over next year to Fullerton.”
Picketts’ guidance helped Wilson regain confidence in himself and, after working on his mechanics and his pitches, Wilson claims everything suddenly just clicked.
“To get focused, I listen to music and just visualize what I’m going to do. I build up that confidence to tell myself that I am better than these guys. It’s giving myself that confidence to go out there and have focus on every pitch,” Wilson said.
In the long-run, Wilson is thankful that he did not play his first season at Saint Mary’s College, giving him the opportunity to play two years at Pierce. This has helped him find a new place in Cal. State University, Fullerton, where he will play next season for the Titans.
After being approached by other schools such as Loyola Marymount University, the University of California, Irvine, and Cal. State University, Northridge, Fullerton contacted him, requesting to watch him throw a bullpen. Shortly after, Wilson visited the campus and signed with the Titans.
“Out of all those schools, I thought Fullerton was the best fit for me, the best program,” Wilson said.
Family and friends are taking note of his accomplishments and are looking forward to the future.
“It’s very exciting. You never know where this is going to take you. You start off at one school, end up at another school. I mean you never know where he’s going to go, but it’s a top flight program with lots of major league alumni, who knows what’s in the future? It’s a big stage and it’s a chance for him to maybe experience things he wouldn’t get to otherwise, like going to Omaha possibly for the College World Series,” Thomas said.
Wilson’s focus is to improve on the mound to be an asset to the Titans and be drafted.