The Braves spotted Wilson in 1996 while he was starring at second base for New Zealand's national softball team in the fast-pitch World Series in Midland, Mich. When he returned to his hometown of Christchurch, he got a call from Phil Dale, Atlanta's Australia scout, asking him to work out. After an infield session and a turn in the cage, Dale offered Wilson a contract. "In two weeks I went from being one of the world's best fast-pitch soft-ball players to one of the worst baseball players," says Wilson.
Wilson hit .215 for the rookie league Danville Braves in 1997, his first season as a pro. He hit .323 for Danville and led the Appalachian League with 25 doubles the next year, however, and last season he hit .309 with 11 home runs and 63 RBIs in 90 games at Class A Macon before breaking his wrist in July. This year, through Sunday, he was hitting .275 with nine homers for the Pelicans, a higher-level Class A team. He was named the Carolina League Player of the Month for June after hitting .370 and driving in 18 runs. "I could hit the fastball right away because that doesn't get to the plate any faster than the ball does in fast-pitch" says Wilson. "It took awhile to feel comfortable hitting curve-balls, though"
"He can hit, that's his strength," says Braves general manager John Schuerholz. "He has great determination to be successful at this."
Wilson, who went 1 for 2 on Sunday, might have to beat out another Futures Games participant to get back to Atlanta. U.S. Team second baseman Marcus Giles is ahead of him in the Braves system. "I know I'm behind in experience," says Wilson, "but I feel if I keep playing, I'll make it to the major leagues."
July 16-18: A's at Rockies Whose house will it be? The A's have made themselves at home just about everywhere they've gone this season; only the White Sox (30) and the Blue Jays (26) had more road wins at the All-Star break than Oakland (25). The Rockies had the majors' best home record (28-9) and were hitting .358 and averaging 9.4 runs per game at Coors Field. Don't expect the A's to be cowed, though. They had scored 6.6 runs per game on the road—a full run more than they'd averaged in Oakland—and had hit .282, 29 points higher than at home.