C.J. WILSON: NOT YOUR ORDINARY MAJOR LEAGUE STAR
Sure, the Angels' newest pitcher can throw a baseball, but he also loves to paint, play guitar, take photographs, speak several languages, write screenplays, talk politics and drive race cars.
More than Baseball
If you look at C.J. Wilson in a baseball uniform and have memorized his statistics, then you are seeing only half of C.J. Wilson, the person.
Wilson was a triple major, starting at Santa Ana College and then Loyola Marymount University: international business, psychology and screenwriting. He owns several side businesses, including a photography company, and has written many things. He also dabbles in oil painting.
Wilson speaks several languages including Spanish, Japanese and Italian, and currently is studying Portuguese. He is a devoted Taoist and adheres to a “Straight Edge” way of life, refraining from alcohol, illegal drugs and promiscuity to stay physically and mentally fit. He has the words “Straight Edged” tattooed along the length of his torso and Japanese characters that read “Poison Free” on his shoulder to remind himself and others of his commitment to good health.
Wilson also has learned to play the piano and guitar, is a certified personal trainer, loves to talk politics and is active on Twitter (c.j.wilson@str8edgeracer). Nothing, it seems, is out of bounds or beyond the scope of possibility as far as Wilson is concerned.
“I believe in being well rounded and having outside interests so that way you're able to turn the switch on and off,” Wilson says, “If you have a bad game, you can go home and forget baseball and be a normal human being.”
If Wilson is passionate about any sport other than baseball it would have to be racing. He races cars in his free time and has talked about becoming a professional driver after his baseball career. He won the E1 class in the 2010 25 Hours of Thunderhill and has a collection of Porches.
Wilson said that having a hobby--or better yet many hobbies--has allowed him to put baseball into proper perspective, making him a better ballplayer, a better teammate and a much better person.
“It’s very hard to forget baseball when you're younger because when you’re trying to make it, every game is so life and death,” Wilson said. “You’re emotionally ravaged when you have a bad game. For me it was like death. I just couldn’t handle it. So when I began developing a better hobby system for myself, I was able to take a breath. I would come back fresher each time, and I would have a good game as a result.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said that although he’s known Wilson for only a short time, he appreciates the person Wilson is both on and off the field.
“He’s got a passion for living,” Scioscia told MLB.com, “but that passion also involves pitching. I think that’s the most important thing.”
Coming Full Circle
The Angels ranked second in the American League in starting pitching ERA last season, but that didn’t deter them from adding another proven starter in Wilson. His presence gives the Angels arguably the best starting pitching in baseball with Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and Wilson.
Wilson said he has no apprehensions about pitching in his hometown and doesn’t feel the pressure to have to make every pitch perfect or throw a shutout every game. The Angels' offense is just too good with the addition of Albert Poulos to go with Torri Hunter, Mark Trumbo and other hitters.
“I’ve pitched here so many times already so it helps that I have the experience here,” Wilson says. “If I had pitched in the National League I would never have pitched in Anaheim Stadium. Maybe I wouldn’t know what to expect. But it seems to have worked out for Trumbo okay. He’s a local guy who grew up in Anaheim. He went out there and had almost 30 home runs as a rookie. I don’t think you can think that way.”
Wilson believes that everything he has done up until this point--the extra work he put in during high school, his collegiate days at Santa Ana College and LMU, the experience he gained coming up through the Rangers' minor league system, even his year away from baseball while rehabilitating from arm surgery--has culminated into a career that only a scrawny Little Leaguer could dream about.
“There is no such thing as an ideal situation, and there’s no such thing as a time machine,” Wilson says. “Life happens the way it does, so you just have to learn to adjust."
So what will Wilson be thinking about when he steps onto the field for the first time as an Angels player in the season opening game April 6 against the Kansas City Royals? Or better yet, two days later when he is expected to make his first start with his new team?
“I don’t really know what to expect,” Wilson says. “I just have to remember that they will shoot the fireworks off so I don’t flinch when I’m out there pitching.”
Hopefully those fireworks will come while he's relaxing in the dugout.
By Mike Casey
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