Welcome to our second installment of “Road to the Show” with Spinners OF Shannon Wilkerson.
Wilkerson was the Red Sox eighth round pick in June’s amateur player draft, and made his professional debut with the Spinners on June 27th, starting the season late due to contract negotiations. Wilkerson has taken little time to adjust to playing as a professional as his numbers are amongst the team lead in numerous categories (.287 BA, 25 H, 8 2B, 2 3B, .751 OPS).
Over a recent five game stretch, Wilkerson dominated New York Penn League pitching, hitting .471 including three multi-hit games. A premier athlete in the field, Wilkerson turned down a Division I football scholarship to stick with the sport that he truly loves. Shannon recently sat down with the Spinners blog to answer a few questions.
When making my college decision, I had to decide between football and baseball. I had some serious offers for football including Troy State (AL). I was always known as more of a football player, and I think that’s why I received fewer offers to play baseball in college. When I was trying to make a choice on what sport to stick with I just knew I wasn’t going to get much bigger physically and that baseball was what I wanted to play. I went with Augusta State due to the great scholarship package they gave me. I guess it was just a coincidence that Augusta was my best option and it happened to be right in my backyard.
At the end of your junior season at Augusta State, you were named Division II National Player of the Year. You also have the honor of being Augusta State’s highest draft pick ever. Do these honors give you a motivation to succeed even more and prove that you were overlooked in high school?
To be honest, they really don’t. As far as the NPOY award goes, I never got a chance to really have that soak in. I received that award in the first week of June, and by that time the draft was my main priority. I’ve never really dwelled on awards or accolades, I feel like when you do that you get complacent, and that’s not an option in this business. I know to be successful as a professional you always need to be looking to improve your game and not focus on the past.
You decided to forego your senior year at ASU to sign with the Red Sox, leaving Georgia for the first time as a ballplayer. Was that a difficult decision, do you have any regrets?
I have zero regrets, this is a dream to be playing here with such a great organization. I never really thought about what decision I would make in terms of signing or continuing school until my sophomore year, when I started talking to my college coach and he told me I had a shot to play at the next level. I’m happy to be here, not just because its always been my dream to play professionally, but because my family has also shared the same dream. I’m sure it’s an incredible feeling for them watching me play here in Lowell.
I’ve always felt that I was a dominant athlete so when I knew that I was going to get drafted, I was excited to get playing no matter where it was. The fact that the Red Sox selected me definitely makes things sweeter. The minute that I was drafted, I wanted to start playing, I knew I was going to sign, I didn’t want to risk that chance of getting hurt my senior year. I knew this was my shot and I had to take it.
You improved your numbers every year at Augusta State, including going from hitting just two home runs your first year to hitting twenty four this past season. Now that you’re here in Lowell, what skill are you hoping to refine most?
Right now, I’m mainly working on adjustments at the plate and really just putting the ball in play. I don’t have a whole lot of experience in wooden bat leagues, so really just getting comfortable playing at this level is my biggest challenge thus far. I know that people are going to be looking for me to hit for power, but I know that will come later on, probably the last thing that comes together. I’m not going to get stressed out about it. One part of my game that people have seen is my speed, i’ve had a few triples and stolen a few bases, speed is definitely a big part of my game. If anything, I’m just trying to be more disciplined at the plate, especially being able to hit from behind in the count. Hitting with two strikes is huge, if you can hit with two strikes, you can really do some damage.
You began the season hitting in the six hole, recently, you have been moved up to leadoff spot and enjoyed some success in that role. Given a choice, do you prefer hitting at the top of the lineup or the heart of the order?
I’ve always preferred the middle of the lineup, I’m a really aggressive hitter and I like to swing early in the count, attacking those first three pitches. The leadoff guy is supposed to take a few, and let the rest of the team see some pitches. Basically, it’s an entirely different mindset. That’s not really something I’ve bought into yet, but I’ll get better at it, since I’m going to have that opportunity.
Once the Spinners season ends, do you have any special plans for this offseason? Are you planning on playing in a Winter League for further instruction?
As of this moment, I’m planning to hit the gym hard and work with a few trainers. I know that there’s someone that will help me with my swing and another guy is going to get me on a lifting program. I’m looking forward to working with the trainers and coaches so I can get some one on one instruction. I really think that all that hard work will keep me grounded and help me stay focused no matter what happens.
One thing that people don’t really know about me is that I love to hunt and fish. I don’t really have the chance to do a lot of that right now, but its definitely my biggest hobby. I’m really into being outdoors, especially with my Dad. I’m looking forward to taking some time this offseason to just being able to get outside and do some of the other things I love.
The Red Sox gave you a $100,000 signing bonus. What was your first purchase?
That’s funny you ask about that, I actually just had papers come in the mail for me here about my first purchase a few days ago. Three days before I flew up, I went to Nash Chevrolet and purchased a 2009 4-door Chevrolet Crew Cab. They sent all the paperwork to Lowell for me to sign, because I had to wait for my contract to become official. Everything is straightened out now and it’s waiting for me in my parent’s driveway.
Wilkerson looks forward to working hard this season and making improvements to his game. He believes in his talent and thus far has been an offensive force for the Spinners. When asked what his main goal this season was, Wilkerson told us he wants to help the Spinners win. Check back later this week for our next “Road to the Show” interview with pitcher Kyle Rutter.