By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush
To say Clemson’s infield situation is crowded might be a bit of an understatement.
The Tigers have more players returning with extensive starting experience from last season (five) than potential starting spots (four) in the infield. To help break the logjam, Shane Kennedy—a middle-of-the-order player who saw valuable time at third base in 2013—was moved to left field in hopes that he would be the top guy there.
Walking into a situation where incumbents make up 100 percent of the work force does not sound ideal for a newcomer. But such is the scenario facing freshman infielder Weston Wilson as the Tigers open practice.
A native of High Point, NC, Wilson is walking into the Clemson dugout with both eyes opened as to his situation. He understands there are players blocking him at every position in the infield right now. In fact, he embraces it.
Wilson brings an unheralded but potent skill set with him as a top ten prospect in North Carolina during the last recruiting cycle. As highly regarded as he was, Wilson’s MLB draft stock took a tumble after he assured professional organizations he was committed to playing baseball in college—specifically at Clemson.
Wilson’s 6’3” frame is conducive to development. As he becomes more exposed to Clemson’s strength and conditioning program, the plan is for that frame to begin to house a budding star.
But such projections are looking down the road. Wilson assumes logging plate appearances and defensive innings will happen gradually over time. For now, he just wants to attempt to improve himself without concerning himself solely with playing time.
“I just want to stay within myself,” he said. “If I play, I play. I know how that goes. We’ve got a lot of guys returning.”
Wilson is just one member of a stout recruiting haul brought in to provide competition this season. He and Eli White are expected to contend for immediate roles all over the infield, an assignment both appear ready to accept.
“These guys were right in the mix in the fall,” Tiger assistant coach Bradley LeCroy said. “They’re going to push the guys in front of them, and they’re going to get their opportunities.”
“I don’t really know yet,” Wilson said of a potential role. “I’ve been working a lot at second and a lot at third. Those are two pretty good options.”
Wilson’s versatility could be a valuable commodity if injury strikes at the heart of a deep infield group. If Clemson is to approach its preseason goal of tripping to Omaha for the College World Series, preparing youngsters like Wilson to accept their roles with patience and focus will be key.
“I think we can be really good,” Wilson said. “I think it’s going to be one of those years where we get the Tigers back to Omaha and hopefully win the College World Series.”
Wilson’s statement is the sort of bravado one might expect from a freshman confident in himself and his team. If such assuredness carries onto the field, Clemson may have a lanky secret weapon in the infield this season.