Jack Wilson had quite a day. He was in a cab innocently on the way to AT&T Park in San Francisco this morning about 9 a.m. when Jack Zduriencik called to tell him he had been traded to the Mariners.
Zduriencik asked him if he could rush to Seattle to get here in time for the 1:40 p.m. game with the Blue Jays. But Wilson, who told him he needed some time for closure with the ballclub he has played for since 2001.
“As much as I would have liked to be part of the game today, I said, ‘Listen, I’ve got to say goodbye to my boys, my guys. I’ve been there a long time, and I wanted to make sure I had at least a half hour to thank them, thank all the coaches, the press – everybody that’s been so nice to me and my family over the nine seasons.’ I said I’ll be there as fast as I can, but there’s something I need to do with these guys.”
So Wilson arrived at Safeco Field in the seventh inning. Good timing.
“I got here just as Griffey was hitting a two-run double down the line,” said Wilson, who met with the media after the game and then hurried off to prepare for the charter flight to Texas. “I was pretty pumped. It was a pretty good first impression. I walked in, and sure enough, this kind of unfolded. I was pretty excited to walk into that, put on a uniform. Go into the bathroom and kind of looked at myself. “All right, I’m a Mariner. I’m pretty excited.”
He didn’t get to the dugout until the 9th inning, wearing No. 9. He was greeted with a big hug from Griffey, with whom he’s built a relationship from years of playing against the Reds in spring training and NL Central games.
“He was there my very first big league game. I played against him and Barry Larkin. We played them so many times in spring training, because we were right next store to each other. You form relationships. He’s always on second, because he’s hitting doubles or walking.”
Here’s some other comments from Wilson:
“It’s one of those days, you heard your name through rumors the last couple of years. You try to prepare for it, but nothing really prepares you. I’m real excited for the opportunity to play some meaningful games in the later part of the season, which unfortunately we weren’t able to do in my career in Pttsburgh/
I had a nice chance to reflect on these nine years, then get on the plane and meet the guys. And I’ll get after it tomorrow.
It was weird — last night I didn’t play. I was coming off a slight hamstring injury in Arizona, where we played previous. I played the last two games there, and the first in San Francisco. Then I wasn’t in the lineup, so I thought it might be something. I just kind of put that out of my head at that point. I was with my wife; it was our wives trip. I went out to dinner, got up this morning, and everything happened. She’s going through some stuff right now, too.
“She’s actually on the Pirates charter on her way back to Pittsburgh. It’s great. It was our wives trip, so we had four or five sets of wives, so she gets to have that closure on the way home. She’ll pick up our three kids and bring them back here. We’re excited.
On his reaction to leaving: “I don’t know right now. I don’t know what to feel. This whole day has been looking back on nine seasons with them, and I’m definitely going to miss it. Aside from the record, the city of Pittsburgh for me was a perfect place to raise a family, which is my biggest concern. I have three children, 7 through 2. From the second I’ve got there – I was 22 years old and didn’t know what I was getting myself into – and they took me in. The fans took me in, and the people in the community. It’s just been a pleasure to be a Pittsburgher for the last nine years.
Did he think he’d stay his entire career?
“There was a possibility. We were taking about it, and negotiations were going back and forth. But as the deadline came, I think our side and their side were trying to figure out what was going to happen. If something didn’t happen by the trade deadline, we were probably going to go in that direction of getting an extension worked out. They’re building in Pittsburgh, trying to bring a winning team. They haven’t had one in a while. But that trade deadline is pretty much the best chance to get the talent they feel they need to move forward.
On what he’d say to fans tired of watching star players leave: “It’s tough. It’s tough for the fans, tough for the players. I went through so many years of watching our best players go. I could give you an All-Star team of guys that have left the Pittsburgh Pirates in my nine years. You take it personal, because you work hard to try to win. In the offseason, you’re busting your butt trying to win. Two months into it, your season has pretty much gone astray. Fans in Pittsburgh, they’ve been true. We’re lucky enough to have the Steelers and Penguins helping us out. Ease the pain, I guess you can say. They’re going to get their winner, eventually. They deserve it more than anyone.
On how he would characterize his game: “(Smiling) Power, power, power. Forty-five homers….no. Obviously, defense is my game. It’s what I’ve done to get to the big leagues and stay in the big leagues. I’ve taken a lot of pride in that. Offensively, I’ve had some up and down years, but put the bat on the ball, for the most part. I’ve been hitting eighth in front of the pitcher, which is nice to see that go away. I’m not too upset about that at all. Whatever Skip wants me to do.
On being a clubhouse leader: “With all the trades that happened, I was pretty much the leader after my third year. I pretty much had the most tenure after my third year in the big leagues. It’s been something I’ve slowly developed. I like to have fun, you’ll definitely see a lot of smiling.
On whether he’d entertain a contract extension with the Mariners: “Yeah, from what I know, I’ve obviously been here a couple of hours. It’s one of those things, I have a job to do. That stuff ends up taking care of itself. ”
On his excitement level in joining the Mariners: “It’s baseball. Bottom line, how much I love being in Pittsburgh and being with my teammates over the years, playing meaningful games in July, August, September is something I haven’t had before. The last time I was on a winning team that was going for something, the playoffs, I was in Junior College my sophomore year, in Oxnard. Southern California. That’s something I’ve been missing. So that’s what I’m really excited about coming here. I know the team is really good. I know we’re in a race. And I played against a lot of the guys here. Obviously, having some of the best players in the history of the game in Ichiro and Griffey. I’m excited, not only to be here, but learn from them as well.
On Ian Snell, also acquired by the Mariners from the Pirates: “Ian’s got some stuff, man. He can pitch, bottom lne. For him, a new atmosphere is going to be key to his success. I think in Pittsburgh, really, the situation we were going through – trading guys, and going through four different pitching coaches over the last three or four years. He’s got the stuff. He just needs to be in the right frame of mind, which I think he will here. He’s very excited. I’ve talked to him today, and he’s very excited about being a Mariner. I’m very excited in particular about him being excited about being a Mariner, because I know in Pittsburgh it was a tough stretch for him.