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What you need to know for 11/19/2017

Mohawks' Wilson closer to realizing his dream

Mohawks' Wilson closer to realizing his dream

He's hitting .417 with 6 home runs, 30 RBIs
Mohawks' Wilson closer to realizing his dream
Liam Wilson of the Amsterdam Mohawks warms up prior to a game against Glens Falls.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

AMSTERDAM — For a good chunk of the past decade, Liam Wilson has been searching for opportunities to showcase his abilities on the baseball diamond. 

That journey started in his native Ontario, took him all across the United States playing in one travel tournament after another, then landed him in Colorado for a couple of years at a junior college before bringing him to Canisius College in western New York.

The latest stop? A summer with the Amsterdam Mohawks of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, a stint Wilson is making the most of in his attempt to get noticed prior to a final season of college baseball he hopes leads to a career playing professional baseball. 

“So,” Wilson said, “that’s why I’m here.”  

At 22 years old, Wilson is a couple of years older than most of his teammates on the Mohawks, who lead their league’s East Division at 27-8 and have the best overall winning percentage in the league. In an ideal scenario for Wilson, he’d have found a way onto a roster in the Cape Cod Baseball League — the top summer league for collegiate players — but he sees his spot in Amsterdam as a positive step in his development.

“Mostly,” Wilson said of his decision to play this summer in the PGCBL, “it was about playing for Amsterdam because of the track record of success they’ve had here with good players coming out of here and the winning culture here.”

Wilson’s become a part of that tradition this summer as the Mohawks’ — and arguably the PGCBL’s — top hitter. After a redshirt junior season in which he hit .343 with more than a third of his hits going for extra bases, the infielder has earned a spot in Tuesday’s all-star game in Amsterdam after hitting .417 with six home runs and 30 RBIs through the weekend.

“He’s in a good league for him. He should go back to Canisius very confident,” Mohawks head coach Keith Griffin said. “If you’re not in the Cape, this league is as good as anyone else’s league to play in.”

Getting players like Wilson to Amsterdam have been a key to success for the Mohawks, who have won four of the PGCBL’s first six championships. While Mohawks president and general manager Brian Spagnola fills a good portion of his roster with players from ACC and SEC programs, it’s often veterans from MAAC and America East teams make major contributions for Amsterdam each summer.

“From the bigger schools in the power conferences, we typically get freshmen — high-profile freshmen,” said Spagnola, who also coaches Amsterdam High School’s varsity baseball team. “From our Northeast schools, we look for proven, older guys. That’s our formula.”

Wilson has primarily played first base this summer for Amsterdam, a position Griffin said he sees as a better fit going forward for the player than at third base where he played this past season for Canisius. He’s hit in either the Nos. 3 or 4 spots for the Mohawks and provides the team with steady, quiet leadership in addition to his offensive production.  

“You watch him play,” Griffin said, “you can just see how hard he plays every day.”

Wilson made a full-time commitment to baseball before his junior year of high school. Growing up, he played baseball as well as hockey, a sport he gave up the chance to play at the competitive junior level in favor of baseball.

“To get recruited out of Canada for baseball, you need to play for an elite team where you travel to the U.S. and get exposure,” Wilson said. “There wasn’t time to do that and play hockey. I decided I was having more fun playing baseball, so that’s what I decided to do.”

Wilson played for the Ontario Terriers, a team whose roster included 14 players who later played Division I baseball and three who became MLB draft picks. The top player from that team was Cal Quantrill, the No. 8 pick in last year’s MLB draft and the son of former MLB pitcher Paul Quantrill.

Wilson had offers from some four-year schools out of high school, but ended up at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colo. He played there for a season and redshirted his second year after breaking an ankle, then transferred to Can­isius.

He’s already earned his undergraduate degree in history at Canisius and is now pursuing his master’s degree in sports administration. If baseball ends for him after his 2018 college season, he said he’s considering law school or becoming a firefighter. 

“I’m undecided,” Wilson said with a laugh.  

He said he’s grown comfortable with life in the United States, but misses home. After his summer with the Mohawks concludes, he’ll get to go home for a couple of weeks before his senior year starts up.

“And I haven’t been home since Christmas,” Wilson said.

By the time he makes it home, he looks likely to have come off a season that should elevate his chances of continuing to play baseball next summer. That was the point of this summer, and Wilson’s made good on it.

“He’s helped us and we’ve helped him,” Griffin said, “and that’s what this thing is all about.” 

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Michael Kelly at 395-3109, mkelly@dailygazette.net or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter. 

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