Forgive Texas A&M baseball fans if they were in a particularly pensive mood on Friday, the last day Major League teams could sign June 2008 MLB draftees. After all, the Aggies have been hit hard over the past few years in the final days of the signing period as highly-regarded high school prospects like Drake Britton, Will Middlebrooks, Nick Papasan, Matt Sulentic, Kevin Ahrens, and Eric Eiland were just a few of the Aggie signees to sign professionally prior to stepping foot on campus.
However, that all changed for head coach Rob Childress and his staff in 2008 when news trickled in during the summer that three high profile juniors from the 2008 team were turning down pro offers to return to the Aggies for the 2009 season. Thought to be a rebuilding season in 2009, that all changed when junior centerfielder Kyle Colligan, junior clean-up hitter Luke Anders, and junior reliever Kyle Thebeau pledged earlier in the summer to come back for one more season at Olsen Field.
That left one player on the roster who was taking his situation down to the wire, right-handed pitcher Alex Wilson. While Wilson sat out the entire 2008 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year and didn’t throw a pitch for the Aggies in the 2008 campaign, his return as the potential No. 1 Friday night starter could spell the difference between Texas A&M being one of several contenders for the Big 12 Championship in 2009 and the favorites to repeat and contend for a spot in Omaha. Again, the Aggies received good news and look poised for a strong run in 2009.
“Yeah, I’m coming back to Texas A&M,” Wilson confirmed. “The Cubs submitted an offer about two weeks ago and I turned it down pretty quickly. With a good season I think I can be a high profile prospect next year, and their offer wasn’t very close. I never heard from them after that.”
A native of West Virginia, Wilson garnered national attention as a freshman at Winthrop going 13-3 with a 3.78 ERA, good enough for freshman all-American honors. Despite slipping to 6-4 as a sophomore due to lack of run support, Wilson was spectacular on the hill lowering his season ERA to a miniscule 2.51. However, his run of good fortune ended last summer when he injured his elbow which required major reconstructive surgery.
Despite the injury, Wilson looked to transfer to a high profile D-1 program to close out his collegiate career and that’s when Coach Rob Childress and the Texas A&M staff came into the picture.
“When I decided to transfer, I narrowed it down to Miami, Arkansas, and Texas A&M,” Wilson said. “After I saw Texas A&M and met with Coach Childress, it was a no brainer for me. Coach Childress is a great pitching coach. Plus, I’m not a big city guy. I liked the college atmosphere at A&M and nothing compares to Olsen Field and the Aggie fans.”
With Wilson now in the plans for 2009, the attention will shift back to his health and the status of his reconstructed right arm. The West Virginia product has been working hard to recapture his old form, and his first big test was pitching this summer in the Cape Cod League.
“I’m feeling great. In fact, I think I’m as good as ever. I’ve always been a fastball-slider pitcher, and I had a curveball and changeup but those weren’t my best pitches,” Wilson said. “With the injury, the first pitches I could throw were the curveball and changeup, so I’ve put in a lot more focus on those two and I feel I’m very effective with all four pitches.”
However, while Wilson said that he’s developed his off-speed repertoire during his rehabilitation, he made it clear that he’s still a power pitcher that will throw strikes and challenge hitters.
“I had my best outing of the summer in my last appearance. I was hitting 97-98 mph so my velocity is all the way back,” Wilson said. “I struck out seven hitters in four innings. I like to come right at hitters and first see if they can catch up to my fastball. I’m not afraid to pitch inside and go right after them. That sets-up hitters for my slider which is my out-pitch.”
Wilson said he’s 100% ready to go for fall practices and he’s looking forward to a big season from his teammates. He thinks this could be a special season at Olsen Field if the team works hard and stays focused.
“If we take care of our business, I think this team can go as far as we want to go,” Wilson said. “We have some hitters in the middle of the lineup coming back, and I think we have everybody returning on the mound. We should have one of the better staffs in the nation. I came back to win it all. Anything short of that will be a disappointment.”