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Life's Complications Don't Deter Wilson : Baseball: Tustin pitcher nearly quit team to devote more time to soccer, a job and a girlfriend. Now the senior is hitting .447.

April 24, 1993|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

TUSTIN — As Tim Wilson sat in the Tustin dugout a couple of days after telling his coach he was going to quit the team, his athletic career flashed before his eyes.

He stared onto the field as his teammates beat Irvine--ranked ninth in the nation--and he saw a baseball career filled with questions.

Why was he quitting when he finally had the varsity coaches he wanted and teammates who could help him reach the Southern Section finals for the first time in three years? Why did he need to spend more time with his girlfriend when he planned on being with Angie far beyond the season's end? Why was he going to disappoint his supportive parents, who had invested about $550 into equipment for him to participate? Was he going to regret his decision in 10 years? What if the team won the championship without him?

Was it really going to be worth it?

The answer was no.

Though feeling pressured to quit so he could concentrate on soccer--his first love--and devote time to a new job--for reasons that go beyond pocket money--the answer was no.

"I felt like I was going to crack and let the pressure get to me," he said. "I almost did."

Instead of turning in his uniform to Coach Tim O'Donoghue--and that's what O'Donoghue thought was coming--Wilson started working out at practices instead of watching them and thinking about his options. He emerged as a cross between Superman and Tony Gwynn. He went five for nine in his first two games, then lit up Las Vegas with a nine-of-13 tournament performance and pitched the Tillers past the No. 4 team in the country, Fresno Bullard, in a 10-2 victory.

"Just kicked their butts," O'Donoghue said of Wilson's play. "I think he's one of the best all-around athletes in the whole county--hitting, fielding, throwing, running. I mean, he's just a natural. And he's such a clutch player--he usually plays his best in the big games."

Wilson's rebirth as a baseball player has been impressive. After playing in just three of his team's first 10 games, he has become a staple in the lineup, either in the outfield or on the mound. Through Friday's games, he was batting .447 and had three victories.

But it almost didn't happen. Wilson, a Times All-Orange County second-team soccer selection, was going to quit so he could play for the North Huntington Beach Untouchables under-19 team, one of the state's best club teams. They are two games away--today's semifinals and Sunday's championship game at Brea-Olinda High--from advancing to the regional portion of the National Cup, and Wilson, a starting center midfielder who once trained with the U.S. national team, is a central figure in their success.

But there are conflicts with baseball. He played sparingly and continued to miss practices because of his commitment to soccer. The soccer coach didn't want baseball interfering, the baseball coach didn't want soccer interfering. They finally compromised, with Wilson trying to fulfill all obligations--and it's running him ragged. "If I'm not the busiest person in the world," he said, "I'm one of them."

Two sports. One in Tustin, the other in Huntington Beach. No car. He practices soccer Tuesday and Thursday from 7-9:30 p.m., and plays games Saturday and Sunday. He practices baseball Monday, Tuesday and Thursday until 6:30 p.m. and plays games Wednesday and Friday. He has a part-time job and a full-time relationship with his church. He has a girlfriend. He has no time for himself.

"That was one of the reasons why I was going to quit, because I didn't think I could handle all this stuff," Wilson said. "I didn't want to be a quitter. My goal going into high school was to be one of the county's top hitters and top pitchers. I never got that chance to prove it to people (my sophomore and junior years).

"I think now if I had quit, I would have regretted it."

His dream is to return to Anaheim Stadium and actually play for the Southern Section title. A left-hander, he was called up as a freshman and sat the bench when Tustin lost there in 1990. But he has yet to return. As a sophomore, the Tillers were three outs from the finals but lost, 4-3, to La Mirada; last year, a two-run home run in the sixth gave Corona a 5-3 victory and kept the Tillers from the finals.

"We've been so close, and I want to get back there so bad," he said. "If we can beat Irvine, we're capable of beating any team."

There were also the victories over other national top-20 teams, Bullard and No. 12 San Diego Mira Mesa.

"This is a good team," O'Donoghue said, "but we're far better with Timmy."

Wilson almost left this dream team because of soccer, but it was something much worse that almost cost Wilson much more when he was younger.

See, Tim Wilson knows what it's like to make decisions and regret them later.

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