A dream came true for Clemson catcher Kyle Wilkie this past Wednesday when he was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 12th round of the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft.
“I was at home with my family. My mom, dad and sister were there,” Wilkie told The Clemson Insider. “My grandparents came over and we were just hanging out. My grandparents, sister and I were playing cards and I got a text message (that said), ‘Hey we just got you. I’ll call you in a second.’ The picks were rolling through pretty quickly, like every few seconds there was another pick.
“My mom was doing her make up so I was like, ‘Mom you may want to come in here.’ So they had the live stream pulled up on the laptop hooked up to the TV so it was rolling through the audio of the picks. Then they said my name and that was that. My phone just blew up.”
Wilkie has always played a significant role in the Tigers’ lineup. In 2019, as a junior, he played in 58 games, 56 of which he started, and hit .307 with six home runs, 14 doubles and 41 RBIs. But aside from his statistical contributions it was his character and leadership that were often brought up even more.
Despite the disappointment that came in 2018 when Clemson lost to Vanderbilt to end the Tigers’ season head coach Monte Lee was hopeful because he knew he had a guy like Wilkie returning in 2019.
“Kyle has leadership qualities,” Lee said. “You could tell that when he was a true freshman. This is a kid that we felt like had leadership qualities a lot like Logan Davidson when he came into the program…Kyle has done an amazing job for us and he is going to be a leader.”
Wilkie credits his parents for his leadership abilities.
“From an early age and the way my parents raised me it was instilled in me to set an example for others,” he said. “Growing up, I was always the oldest child, the oldest grandchild, the oldest of all of the kids in the family, the oldest of all of the kids in the church at the time. I was always taught that there’s always eyes watching you no matter where you are. So, set an example for other people.”
Wilkie, a standout two-sport athlete at Creekview High School in Canton, Georgia, was a two-time all-state in baseball and all-state in football. He also credits his time as a quarterback to helping him on the baseball field.
“Playing quarterback, that’s just what happened,” he said. “If you’re not a leader, you have to figure out how. But I’ve played catcher ever since kid-pitch started when we were nine years old. Catcher and quarterback…that will teach you a lot about leadership.
“I learned a lot about leadership between those two positions because they’re very similar. With catcher and quarterback you have to direct people, you have to know what everyone’s doing on every play. It’s just one of those qualities that both positions have that have helped me with baseball and being a leader.”
Wilkie told TCI he has not made a full decision as to whether or not he will sign with the Pirates or return to school for his senior year, but no matter where he goes he knows he could not have gotten there without the ones who have supported him the most.
“My parents have supported me and been with me no matter what I wanted to do throughout my whole life,” he said. “None of this would be possible if it weren’t for them and the way they raised me. I can’t thank them enough for that. My sister as well for her support.
“We played a game as Kennesaw State last year and I think there were two hundred people to watch me play. It was kind of surreal because that’s something a lot of people don’t have. My church family, cousins, grandparents. Just everyone has always been so supportive of me and that’s something that I’ll never take for granted.”
And of course, he would not be where he is today if it were not for the coaches he’s had along the way as well.
“All of the coaches that I’ve had throughout the years, especially here at Clemson. Just being able to interact with all of them and get better. Each one of them has helped me get to where I am now.
“All of my coaches growing up, teammates that I’ve played with. It’s just really cool to think back on how every little thing you do kind of influences what happens in your life. I’ve had a lot of support that I won’t take for granted.”