Wilson signs to play at Loyola Marymount
Deciding between two sports that one loves is a difficult decision, but Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles helped make the choice a little easier for Tolleson’s Billy Wilson.
The football quarterback and baseball outfielder wanted to play both sports in college, but when Loyola made him a scholarship offer for baseball that was tough to pass up, he accepted.
“It’s definitely a blessing for me and my family,” Wilson said. “First of all, it gives me a chance to go to a really good school and not have to worry about the price being an issue. I love football and all but it is a bruising sport, so it’s nice to be on the baseball field, something you can do every day, you always feel good doing it; it’s a fun sport.”
Loyola is giving Wilson $47,000 per year to go there, where tuition is $53,000. It’s a highly academic school, which suits Wilson.
“After I visited them, me and my parents sat down for a good couple hours and talked about what would be best for me and work out best in the future, and No. 1 is education; Loyola Marymount is a good school,” Wilson said. “Also, location. They [parents] want me to get used to not having them right next to me, which is going to be hard but hopefully I’ll get over that. And the campus, it’s one of the most beautiful campuses I’ve ever seen.”
Although playing football was a big interest of Wilson’s while looking for colleges, the decision came down to what Loyola offered, in addition to how taxing football can be on the body.
“My parents kind of talked me out of football and got me thinking about my future and the damages football could do and the whole thing with concussions being a big issue,” Wilson said. “That all came into the decision. I would still love to play football but my parents had a big influence with me. Whatever makes my parents happy makes me happy.”
There were other schools that sent Wilson informational letters, he said. However, the only other college he considered during the process was Grand Canyon University. Wilson wants to leave the state though.
“A lot of times people say they will play anywhere,” Tolleson baseball coach Scott Richardson said. “He said Washington, Oregon, California. We were able to focus our energies on those places and contacted some people.”
Wilson played in the Area Code Baseball tryouts in Flagstaff, and immediately impressed the Loyola coaches.
“The first game, I think he had a home run, a triple, made two outstanding plays in the outfield, threw a guy out at third,” Richardson said. “After that the coaches said, ‘We want him. We want a verbal from him today, we’re going to talk to his parents, we want to build our program around him.’”
The news surprised Wilson, who didn’t think he had done anything outstanding at the tryouts.
“It honestly caught me off guard, I didn’t think I performed very well,” Wilson said. “When we went there I hadn’t really played baseball in a while and we just had come off an 11-hour football passing league event, so my arm was kind of hanging, kind of sore. I gave it my all, flew around and I think that’s what it came down to.”
Wilson wants to study athletic training in college, but said Loyola recently dropped that program. Now, he’s deciding between economics, psychology and philosophy.
Having an athlete receive a significant scholarship to a Division I school is exciting for Richardson as a coach, he said. It’s also special for him in another way.
“He’s played with my son since they were 8 years old, so seeing him develop through the years makes it even more special,” Richardson said. “It’s almost like a family member. He’s been around and is a good kid. … It’s a big honor for our program for this to happen.”
Wilson really flourished as a junior, batting .413 last season. He had 13 extra-base hits, including six triples, while leading the team with 43 hits and 44 runs scored, all while hitting out of the leadoff spot. Wilson also stole 23 bases in 25 attempts.
“He might be our best offensive threat, but I hate wasting him in the 3-hole driving in runs because he causes so much havoc at the front part of the lineup,” Richardson said. “When he’s on the bases we see more fastballs down in the order because they don’t want to throw breaking balls with his threat to run.”
Wilson also excelled in the outfield, playing left. He’ll shift over to center this year now that Johnny Garcia has graduated. The two were very good friends, Wilson said.
“Johnny was like my teacher, he taught me everything I know in high school baseball,” Wilson said. “It was kind of tough when he left but he gave me a lot of knowledge, taught me a lot of the little things. He’s a master of the little things.”
Wilson is excited about his senior season of baseball now that his college commitment is locked up. He didn’t want to have to stress about it during the year.
“All last year, Johnny, his senior year, he was worrying about where he was going to go for college and what was going to happen with that, and it’s nice to get that out of the way and know that coming up senior year I’m just focusing on playing baseball and getting better as a player, going out and performing on game days,” Wilson said.
Wilson has the potential to be even better, as his raw athleticism is what professional and college scouts look for, Richardson said.
“His ceiling right now is unlimited because he’s never played baseball 12 months out of the year,” Richardson said. “That’s kind of what the pro guys and college guys are thinking, how good could this guy be if he plays baseball year round? The physical tools he possesses already, can we refine some of that? The tag that’s always been on him is raw athlete. Now he’s going to get the opportunity to fine tune some of his baseball skills, and it’s exciting to see how far that’s going to take him.”
It’s still a long ways from when Wilson will take the field at Loyola, but he’s already got some comfort in knowing he can try to win a job right away.
“They did say they want me to go out and compete my freshman year for a spot, so I’ll be working hard to earn that spot,” Wilson said. “I don’t really care where I play in the outfield, as long as I’m on the field I’ll be happy.”
Casey Pritchard can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.