Leading The Ducks: Preston Wilson

Former major leaguer Preston Wilson is the Ducks most accomplished hitter, making him a big part of manager Gary Carter’s lineup.

Thoughts of acquiring Wilson might have germinated two decades ago. As a member of the Mets, Carter put together a very preliminary mental scouting report on Wilson, though the competition level at the time was a little suspect.

“He was always the MVP of family days,” said Carter with a laugh.

Wilson is the stepson of Mookie Wilson, a teammate of Carter on the Mets 1986 championship team. As a child growing up around a big league clubhouse in Shea Stadium, young Preston learned the game from players like his stepfather and Carter, who was in the midst of forging a Hall of Fame catching career.

Through the

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first two games of the new season, Wilson recorded a home run, four runs scored and four RBIs, including a 1-3, one-run, one RBI showing Friday night in a 10-6 Ducks victory over Southern Maryland that moved the Flock to 2-0.

Childhood memories aside, Wilson established a more tangibles connection to the Mets as an adult. The Amazin’s selected Wilson in the first round of the 1992 draft. As a 23-year-old in 1998, Wilson made his major league debut at Shea and played eight games for the Mets, where Mookie was the first base coach.

But the family reunion

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would not last long. Wilson’s Mets run lasted just eight games, though he became a key piece in one of the organization’s most famous trades. The Mets shipped the outfielder to Florida in the Mike Piazza trade.

Wilson played three full seasons for the Marlins before making stops in Colorado, Washington and Houston. He split 2006 with the Astros and Cardinals, marking his last full year

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in baseball. St. Louis. Wilson was limited to just 25 games with St. Louis in 2007, needing surgery to repair articular cartilage in his right knee.

With his 35th birthday coming in July, Wilson said he joined the Ducks for the typical reasons: get back to the big leagues, show the scouts his bat still has life and play against quality competition. But the Bamberg, South Carolina native said he has another goal for 2009.

“I was really

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frustrated sitting at home after the surgery,” Wilson said. “I came here to fall in love of the game again. It’s been such a big part of my life and I felt like I lost it.”

Despite batting a career .264 with 189 home runs and 668 RBIs in 10 major league seasons, no one called Wilson in 2008. In 2003 the 6-2, 193-pound outfielder made his first All-Star team en route of belting a career-high 36 home runs while racking up 141 RBIs for the Rockies. Just five years later, Wilson was stuck in his Miami, Fl. home.

There are some positives for Wilson, who got to spend time with his six-year-old daughter. He said having to leave her to get on a plane to New York was the hardest part about starting the season, though a successful Ducks stint could mean his daughter might get the chance to see her dad play at the highest level once again. Wilson said his year off was difficult even if it allowed for personal reflection.

“No one is immune from life,” Wilson said. “I know there are people worse off

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than having to rehab a knee. When it’s done, it will be done.”

Carter said he would like to see Wilson make it to the majors and thinks the talent level is still there.

“I feel like he’s family,” Carter said. “I know how bad he wants to get back to the big leagues.”

New York will be Wilson’s home away from home this season, and Carter isn’t the only familiar face. Buddy Harrelson, the Ducks co-owner and coach, was the third base coach on the Mets 1986 team. That position of authority still resonates

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with Wilson 23 years later.

“I still call him Mr. Harrelson. It’s hard for me to call him Buddy,” Wilson said during Ducks media day. “I grew up around New York more than anywhere else.”

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