Tyler Wilson is entering his junior season as the ace of the University of Rhode Island baseball team’s rotation and as the season nears, he will to improve on an already superb, MLB-ready resume.
Wilson was not highly recruited out of high school. Rhode Island and St. John’s University were the two schools that he had considered to make his stomping grounds. A native of the small town of Palmer, Massachusetts, Wilson decided to attend URI versus St. John’s based on the location of the schools.
“I was told I would make an immediate impact at both schools,” Wilson said. “What it came down to was talking to my parents.”
Wilson recalled having the conversation with his parents. He remembered, after talking to them, pondering about whether or not baseball would pan out. “I could go out and throw my first inning and be done for my career,” Wilson said. “Do I want to live in Queens?”
Wilson was looking for something with the same feel Palmer gave him and fortunately for him and the team that is what he found at URI. “Palmer is a very rural area and I thought that Narragansett kind of matched that,” he said.
Wilson’s baseball roots run through his hometown, but more specifically in his backyard. “It all started in my backyard playing catch with my dad,” Wilson said. “He was my coach and the person that got me hooked on baseball.”
Wilson’s family has supported him his whole career thus far, rarely missing out on an opportunity to witness the left-hander take the mound and blow hitters away with his fastball.
“I know if a game is local and I am pitching, my dad is going to be there,” Wilson said. “It could be in a blizzard, or rainstorm, and he’s going to be there. My mom fully supports me, too.”
With the support of his parents and his own mental determination, Wilson has been able to excel on the baseball diamond. “When I was younger I tried a bunch of different sports,” Wilson recalled. “Baseball always stuck for me. I didn’t like the physicality of basketball. I hated the running in soccer. But, baseball I knew that I could be competitive mentally and have an edge on people rather than being physical.”
It was that competitive spirit and mental toughness that pushed Wilson toward a phenomenal 2016 season, which culminated in a conference championship for the team, and a win over South Carolina on the Gamecocks’ field in a regional game in the NCAA Tournament. The Rams were down 4-0 after three innings against the No. 6 Gamecocks. Wilson, after struggling through the first third of the game, settled down and struck out 11 batters on route to a 5-4 Rhode Island victory. Wilson had given up two home runs in the first inning of that game but he knew he and his team would fight through.
“Looking at that game as a whole that is just a proud moment for me,” Wilson remembered. “I could have easily given up the two home runs and tell myself that South Carolina was meant to beat us. I knew that my teammates needed me and I needed my teammates. This was going to make our team stronger. That is definitely one of the proudest moments I have had.”
Wilson, a six-foot-four southpaw, has a pitching resume that most athletes only dream of accruing. In two seasons as the ace of the Rhode Island, he is a two-time Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Year, a two time A-10 first teamer, and an eight time A-10 Pitcher of the Week winner. These awards just scratch the surface of what Wilson has accomplished. He is first in career ERA at URI with a 2.33 earned run average and his 13 wins in 2016 is the most in a season in the program’s history.
Coming into 2017, it sure looks like Wilson and the Rams will continue their dominance. Rhode Island is the preseason favorite to repeat as conference champions, while Wilson has been selected to two preseason All-American teams. With the career that Wilson has already assembled, it is easy to ask how could he possibly not be one of the top recruits in New England coming out of high school? However, Wilson prefers to not dwell on what has happened in the past and instead believes it is all apart of the plan.
“I like to think that everything has happened for a reason,” Wilson said. “I am here for a reason. I was not highly recruited for a reason. The reason being is to come here [URI], work with this coaching staff and my teammates that I am going to be friends with for the rest of my life. I am happy where I am.”
For Rhode Island Head Coach Raphael Cerrato it was the potential he saw in Wilson that forced him to recruit him heavily. “The first time I saw Tyler pitch he was not good,” Cerrato said. “He just did not pitch very well. But I thought in my mind that this kid was going to be good. There was no doubt in my mind that he had a chance to be really good.”
Cerrato remembered how he could see Wilson’s raw talent from the beginning. Cerrato said that Wilson has the talent and potential to be one of the highest draft picks ever taken out of the University of Rhode Island. “I think he has the potential to pitch in the major leagues,” Cerrato said. “There is no doubt about that. He has that ability.”
Pitching at the next level is something that Wilson does not like to think about too much. Of course, the idea of playing in the MLB is fresh in his mind, but he chooses to not overthink it. “I take everything one day at a time and one start at a time,” Wilson said. “As far as the draft, I have absolute no expectation and that’s the best way to go about it. If you think you are getting drafted in the first round and get drafted in the third you’re going to get pretty upset. But, if you have no expectations and you get drafted in the third round it’s great.”
The team always comes first for Wilson. As MLB scouts come looking and the season inches its way to its start, there is one thing on his mind. “I am just worried about building on what our team did last year,” Wilson said.
Wilson and the Rams start their 2017 campaign on Friday February 17, at 3 p.m. when they take on Missouri State in the Lake Area Classic at McNeese State in Lake Charles, Louisiana.