It's cold and rainy up in Lakewood, New Jersey. Ethan Wilson's group is scheduled to take practice swings soon, but right now, his Jersey Shore BlueClaws teammates occupy the batting cage.
"I'm not really used to playing in cold weather," said Wilson, the Philadelphia Phillies 2nd round pick in the 2021 MLB Amateur Draft.
Wilson grew up in Andalusia, Alabama, a town with a population just under 9,000, all of whom could fit comfortably in his new home at ShoreTown Ballpark.
Wilson didn't stray far from his hometown for university either, moving just 120 miles down the road to the University of South Alabama. There, Wilson was an instant success, slashing .346/.453/.686 in his freshman season.
Few hurdles stunted Wilson on the ballfield down south. He was a natural at South Alabama, even drawing comparisons to fellow right fielder and 2021 NL MVP Bryce Harper.
But pro-ball is not college ball, and Wilson's baptism into the Phillies minor leagues didn't go as smoothly as his introduction to college baseball. Slashing .215/.282/.374, in his 2021 minor league season with the Clearwater Threshers, Wilson struggled for the first time.
"That's been one of the biggest adjustments for me, trying to time up 95 [mph] on a nightly basis," said Wilson. "We never really saw anything above 93, 94 [in college], and then pro-ball you're seeing 95-plus every night."
Promoted to the Jersey Shore BlueClaws after a breakout spring training in which he took home the Phillies' Bill Giles Award for excellence in spring, Wilson got off to another slow start.
Now armed with mentors and more experience, Wilson has found a way to breakout of that slump.
Wilson frequently carpooled with Darick Hall in spring training, who he affectionately calls "D-Hall." Both members of the Phillies minor league system were not on the 40-man roster during the lockout, so Hall had extra time to take some of the younger prospects under his wing.
"One of the guys I gave rides to almost every day in spring training was Ethan Wilson," said Hall, "I talked to him a lot about stuff and he was always asking questions, which you love to hear."
Wilson has now begun to show flashes of the player the Phillies expected when they took him in the 2nd round of last year's draft. Since May 3, he's slashed .262/.333/.400. Wilson's defense in right field has improved as well, and he's stolen 13 bases in 36 games, becoming a more well-rounded player by the day.
He's still two levels away from playing with the Phillies, but fans should keep an eye on Wilson. Nearly 23-years-old, he's not that much younger than many of the other players on the big league roster.
Wilson is certainly keeping an eye on the Phillies.
"I try to watch the Phillies every opportunity that I get," Wilson said. And like many others around the Delaware Valley, he thinks there's more to this team than what we've seen so far.
"Obviously their record isn't where it needs to be right now, but it's really early. I think they'll hit their stride and finish on a good note."
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