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Wilson set for future without baseball

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By Tricia Lafferty
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
 

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Three people in particular will decide how much longer Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson will play baseball.

One is a toddler. One favors soccer. The other is a heck of a Little League baseball player.

They are Wilson's 1-year-old daughter Jersi, 3-year-old daughter Jaidyn and 6-year-old son Jacob. Wilson knows they are going to need a full-time father in the next few years.

That's why Wilson embraces the fact that he has only two or three seasons of baseball left. That means he'd be giving it up as early as age 33, but Wilson is fine with that.

"I gotta get back to coaching baseball and just be a dad, just being there for them," Wilson said. "They're gonna get to the age pretty soon when I need to be around more often. My son loves that I play baseball, so that helps. The two girls, they're gonna need daddy pretty soon."

Wilson will enter his ninth major-league season - all with the Pirates - and once he completes his 10th year, his children will decide when Wilson calls it quits.

"I'll say, 'Do you want daddy to play another year?' Wilson said. "It'll be up to them. If they say 'No,' then I'm done."

His kids won't have the same influence on how much longer Wilson will play in Pittsburgh. That's not up to them, nor is it completely up to Wilson, whose contract runs through this season.

"I'm just happy to be here now," Wilson said. "I don't think about that stuff. Even right now, to have eight years is special."

Wilson's name has been involved in trade talks for the past few seasons. In fact, he was so sure he had played his final game in Pittsburgh last season that he took a piece of PNC Park with him after his final at-bat.

The dirt Wilson scooped up and tucked in his back pocket sits on a shelf in his game room. The baseball from the single he hit that day while pinch-hitting with a broken right index finger sits right beside the dirt.

"That was one of the best feelings of your life to have that kind of reaction to people saying goodbye," Wilson said. "You gotta do it. I wanted to try to get out there because I owe it to them. They've always backed me."

As it turns out, though, it wasn't goodbye.

In his ninth spring training with the Pirates, Wilson's numbers - a .123 batting average and an 0 for 23 slump - indicate he's had a tough camp, but Wilson is implementing a major change in his hitting approach. He's lowering his hands from above eye level to his shoulder and is just starting to feel comfortable, as evidenced by his two-double performance Monday.

"Jack has made a lot of progress," manager John Russell said. "I like his approach now and I think he likes it as well. So do you have to get hits• Not necessarily, but that's where you start."

At 31, Wilson is squeezing all of the baseball left in him into the next two or three seasons. And if he has it his way, he'll spend them in Pittsburgh.

"I'd love to finish my career here, to be completely honest," Wilson said. "I love my teammates. I love being here."

Wilson won't drop baseball completely when his playing days are over. His eyes light up when he talks about how he wants to coach his son's Little League team "so bad" and eventually his high school squad. He wants to help out with Jaidyn's soccer team and whatever Jersi takes an interest in.

"I'll give it whatever I got," Wilson said

Wilson has come to accept the fact that his playing career is nearing its end. And he's OK with that. He's sure there will be no regrets and no coming back for more once he's done.

"I've been very blessed," he said. "I don't need to play. I'll play in a men's league. I'll play softball on Sunday."

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