Wilson returning to roots in Altoona

Jack Wilson played less than a full season for the Altoona Curve, but few Curve alums have a better major league resume than Wilson.

Wilson played shortstop in 33 games for the Curve in the 2000 season, hitting .252 in 139 at-bats. He had 35 hits, including seven doubles, two triples, one homer and 16 RBIs.

“It was a different time for me,” Wilson was saying by phone earlier this week from Cooperstown, N.Y. where he was managing his 12-year-old son’s travel baseball team in a national tournament. “I had just got traded from the Cardinals. I was playing in the Texas League for the Arkansas Travelers so it was all new and I was very nervous.

“I wanted to show (the Pirates) they made a good move in getting me, but I didn’t do very well, quite honestly,” he said. “It was a tough transition. I was young and trying to make a good impression.”

Nonetheless, Wilson has fond memories of his time in Altoona.

“I loved Altoona,” he said. “I was only there a month and a half, but I remember how excited the fans got and I remember when I first walked into the stadium, I thought it was the best stadium I had ever seen. I’m sure it still is.

“I also was there for a rehab in 2008, and it was awesome,” he said. “I’m looking forward to coming back.”

Wilson will return to Altoona to play for the Curve Alumni in the Heroes Softball Game against the Wounded Warriors Amputees on Tuesday, July 15. The game is part of the Eastern League All-Star Game Stop to be held at Peoples Natural Gas Field July 15 and 16.

“We’re in New York anyway, so this works out great,” said Wilson, who will be accompanied to Altoona by his wife, Julie, and three children.

Some of Wilson’s teammates on the 2000 Curve team were John Grabow, Adam Hyzdu, Rob Mackowiak, and Kory DeHaan.

“I remember we fell short (of the playoffs),” Wilson said. “I was the final out – a fly to deep left.

“I’m excited to see the guys, especially the Mayor (Hyzdu).”

Wilson had a solid big league career, playing 12 seasons with the Pirates, Mariners and Braves. He had a .265 batting average with 61 homers and 426 RBIs and a .306 OBP in 1,370 games. Statistic-wise, 2004 was his best with the Pirates when he made the National League All-Star Team and collected 201 hits, earning a Silver Slugger Award. He also was involved in 129 double plays – still a club record for a shortstop.

“I still think 2008 was my best season (with the Pirates),” he said. “The year I had 200 hits got off to a real hot start and the 0-for-5’s and 0-for-4’s were easier to take.

“In 2008, though, I batted only .245 the first half of the season,” he said. “Then I came back to hit .380 the second half and finished at 292. To me, that was a much bigger accomplishment.”

Wilson and his family live in California, but he keeps a close eye on the Pirates.

“They’re my team,” he said. “I played with McCutchen and Walker and Charlie Morton. They’re my guys. Pittsburgh became our home and we raised our kids there. We loved the area.”

Wilson feels he has an allegiance to the Pittsburgh organization.

“I try to do as much for them as I can,” he said, “because they believed in me and gave me a chance, so I have a lot to be thankful for.”

Wilson does a lot of training of young infielders who are hoping to be drafted by pro teams.

“I’m a hands-on guy so I get right in the middle infield with them,” the 36-year old Wilson said.

He also coaches junior high baseball and has aspirations of coaching on the Division I college level at some point.

“That’s my passion now,” Wilson said. “My first goal was to be a professional baseball player and now my passion is to be a Division I college coach so I can help the young kids achieve their goal.

“I’m coaching junior high now, but I want to bypass high school,” he said. “The high school kids think they know it all and I don’t want to deal with their parents, either.”