Photo by Brian Paglia
Former Luella baseball standout D.J. Wilson is playing in the Sunbelt Baseball League this summer hoping to keep his college baseball career going.
D.J. Wilson doesn’t know where on the timeline his college baseball career lies. It could be just hitting its peak. It could be fast approaching its twilight.
The former Luella baseball standout is in the midst of a summer-long audition, of sorts, playing with the OTC Bearcats in the Sunbelt Baseball League, a wooden-bat league for college players.
Except this player has no college. Wilson is sort of a free agent, looking to transfer from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College after three years of school and two seasons of baseball.
He has two seasons of eligibility left, and he wants to use them.
“I just want the opportunity to play,” Wilson said.
Since leaving ABAC, Wilson has relied on his baseball connections to find that opportunity.
He was invited to a tryout at Southern Polytechnic University in Marietta at the request of an assistant coach who hoped to take over the vacant head coaching position. The coach later texted Wilson that he didn’t get the job, possibly taking Wilson’s chance with him.
One of Wilson’s old travel team coaches, Brad Stromdahl, has started a college baseball program at Georgia Gwinnett College, prompting Wilson to apply to the school and hope for the best. He’s also applied to Kennesaw State, Georgia Southern and Southern Tech.
Wilson isn’t the only one in the Sunbelt league searching for potential suitors. Several junior college players join a team hoping to catch the eye of a college coach. Just last summer, Wilson’s former Luella teammate, Josh Pape, stood out to an opposing coach who was also the head coach at West Georgia. Pape eventually signed with Georgia College & State University.
Playing with the OTC Bearcats keeps Wilson ready until his time comes.
“I’m just able to hit everyday,” he said after a game earlier this season. “Live pitching is the best thing. You can go in the cage and hit all summer. That’s not the same as hitting off somebody.”
And Wilson’s doing plenty of hitting. Against the Berkley Lake Tide, a team out of Norcross, he ripped a run-scoring double to the right-centerfield gap in the Bearcats’ eventual 5-2 victory. It was reminiscent of his bases-loaded-clearing ground-rule double against Greenbrier in 2009 that helped Luella clinch the region title.
Wilson played first base and was a designated hitter on Luella teams that in two seasons went 40-21 overall and 24-4 in region play, including the Region 2-AAAAA championship in 2009. He signed early with ABAC and stuck with his commitment, despite late overtures from several prominent junior college programs.
ABAC didn’t win at quite the rate Wilson experienced at Luella, and he didn’t get the playing time he hoped for.
But Wilson is undeterred, toiling away with the Bearcats, waiting for a call from someone looking for a catcher who can hit.
If that call never comes, Wilson said he’ll accept his fate, work toward a major in sports management and try to stay close to the game somehow. He’ll probably play in a men’s league in his spare time.
“You can’t play a child’s game forever,” Wilson said. “That’s what they all say.”