When you look back, there is always that moment, that moment where you are that close. It might happen in your personal life, your job or in your day-to-day activity.
For a baseball player, it is always about that moment when you get the call to the majors or you don’t. It happens quickly for some, takes a long time for others, and most never get that coveted call, the call to the big leagues.
For right-handed pitcher Josh Wilkie, he believes he was close to a possible call at the end of the 2010 season. He had worked his way up the ranks, becoming one of the most reliable and consistent relievers in the Nationals’ minor league system.
And looking back, Wilkie said there was nothing like the beginning of that 2010 season.
“In 2010, I never trained harder for a season in my life,” Wilkie said. “I had an awesome spring training. I went to Triple-A right away and just had a great mindset. I was locked in that year. I kept training. I had that edge, that hope that if I kept working hard, something was going to happen.
“The season was a blur. I had great outing after great outing. I had something like 18 straight innings without allowing a run. I gave up a run and then I had like another 12 innings without allowing a run.”
His agent said that he had talked to general manager Mike Rizzo, who told him to keep training hard.
Wilkie felt he had a great shot of getting called up in September.
His agent called and told him he was not going to be called up.
The news hit Wilkie like a load of bricks.
“I had never been so disappointed in my life,” Wilkie said.
The news completely took the wind out of his sails.
That night, he allowed six runs against Rochester. His ERA went from 1.50 to a 2.40 in one game.
“It was one of those weird nights,” Wilkie said.
Wilkie had that moment were he felt like, “What else can I do?”
It was a turning point in Wilkie’s career. Wilkie admitted his attitude had changed a bit after that season.
In 2011, he pitched 52 games again for Syracuse.
In 2012, he pitched in 18 games for Syracuse before shoulder problems started to catch up with him. Later, a suspension for testing positive for a banned flavored spice in tobacco effectively ended his season.
He found out later he would need shoulder surgery and decided it was time to just move on to a new career.
It wasn’t the way Wilkie wanted his baseball career to end.
After all, he had a successful seven-year run in the Nationals organization filled with many positives - two All-Star teams, the Arizona Fall League, winter ball and participation in the Nationals’ spring training.
He looks back on the experience with the Nationals as extremely valuable to where he is today. He has grown as a professional and the game helped him transition into his new career.
Today, Wilkie is thrilled to be working on a new challenge in the Bay area of California. He is happy and excited about his new job at Madefire.com.
Wilkie works as a production assistant for a company that features a browser-based tool that creates things like what is called a motion book. Madefire uses this motion book tool to create a reading experience for a graphic novel or comic book that can be viewed on a cellphone, iPad or other media devices.
The startup company states the “goal is to give creators the freedom to escape from the traditional confines of 22 static pages, and create a new world of words, pictures, motion and sound.”
Wilkie was able to integrate his music study from George Washington University, his creativity and ability to interact well with people that he learned, in part, from his first career in professional baseball to become an asset to Madefire.
“With baseball, I played with Stephen Strasburg and most every prospect in the Nationals system at one point,” he said. “This (job) is the big leagues of technology. You need to come out here hitting the ground running.”
In his new job, Wilkie has been able to handle the pressures of big-time situations by calling on what he learned playing baseball. But he also had to reinvent himself and find out what he was good at and what he could offer this new professional world outside of sports.
“I used to throw a baseball and people paid me,” Wilkie said. “It was a lot easier. That was one of the difficulties coming from that world where your asset is basically being able to throw a baseball.
“During my career, I always thought to myself, ‘Dude, you aren’t just a baseball player.’ That is why I thought that (offseason) job on Capitol Hill was so cool and interesting. I was able to produce and record music during my career. I tried to keep those outlets open to help me out. I learned Spanish in winter ball from my teammates. I learned the Latin American culture pretty well.”
All of that life experience in baseball made him an asset to his new employers.
“It has been a crazy experience,” Wilkie said. “I am just happy to be where I am at Madefire. I am excited to be here (at this company) on the ground floor. I have been able to use what I learned before to make it relevant to what I am learning now. Hopefully it takes off and I can be here for the ride.”