Mt. Lebanon's Wilson A Hit With Major League Scouts
By Rich Emert
When it comes to playing baseball, Josh Wilson always has been ahead of the game.
He started playing for the Pinto League in Mt. Lebanon when he was 5-years old. Most of the other players were 6 or 7. When he was 8, he played on the 9-year old traveling team, and when he was in the ninth grade, Wilson was the only freshman on Mt. Lebanon High School's varsity.
"I guess I've always played at a level higher than my age," said Wilson, now a senior shortstop with the Blue Devils.
He is continuing to play at a high level. Last month, he played with USA Baseball's Junior National Team in the Junior Pan Am Games in Caracas, Venezuela. He was one of the top 19 high school seniors in the U.S. selected for the team, and the only player from Pennsylvania.
The Junior Pan Am tournament ended April 24 and was a qualifying tournament for the 1999 IBA Junior World Championships Aug. 6-15 in China.
Wilson relished the experience to play with the best of the U.S.
"Playing with what are supposed to be the top seniors in the country-there's nothing better," he said. "And then playing against the top guys from the different countries; it will be a good experience. I'll get to see how I fare against the better players in the country. It will give me an idea of how much harder I have to work."
Wilson would have to stay awake 24 hours per day to work any harder at his game. He was hitting .340 (6-for-16) before leaving for the Junior National team. He had a .556 average (30-for-54) last season and led Mt. Lebanon to the PIAA Class AAA championship. He hit .509 as a sophomore.
Mt. Lebanon Coach Ed McCloskey, a hitting instructor who uses videotapes of the likes of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Ted Williams, said Wilson has one of the sweetest swings he's seen.
"He works very, very hard at it," McCloskey said. "He just has great baseball instincts. He has all the tools to be a major league player, but only 2 percent of the people who are drafted play a day in the majors."
It's a good bet Wilson will be selected in Major League Baseball's amateur draft next month. Before Wilson left for the Junior National team, scouts flocked to Mt. Lebanon games like birds to the crash of a bread truck.
After a recent non-section game against Seneca Valley, a few scouts asked Wilson if he would mind taking a few swings in the batting cage. Wilson obliged, taking about 15 minutes of cuts under watchful eyes.
Most players would have been nervous wrecks. After all, the scouts are the same guys who will recommend how high Wilson should be taken in the draft. Wilson, though, was calm in the cage and shook each scout's hand before they left.
"It's been going on for three years now," Wilson said. "At first, I really had to prove myself-to show that I could play. But now, I'm used to it enough that it's not hard on the emotions or the nerves or anything."
That's because Wilson's baseball future is secure. He has signed to attend Louisiana State on an athletic scholarship, and will be drafted.
Wilson comes by his baseball ability honestly. His father, Mike, is Duquesne University's coach and was an outstanding player in his day.
At 6-1, 175, Wilson does not appear menacing with the bat. He does not have forearms like Mark McGwire, but he makes solid contact.
"I've heard that a lot--that I'm not that big," Wilson said. "But I'm no weakling, and hitting is all about timing and getting a good hip turn."