This story was originally published on July 5. We have updated it to reflect Jacob Wilson being drafted No. 6 overall by the Athletics.
PHOENIX -- Former big league star Jack Wilson has made many baseball memories over the years, but the biggest ones are related to family.
He can vividly recall seeing his son Jacob catch his first ball and witnessing the young boy launch his first Little League home run. Jack remembers that he was standing in a hotel lobby when he got the news that Jacob made the USA Baseball team.
He’ll have a new favorite memory on Sunday after Jacob was selected sixth overall by the A's in the 2023 MLB Draft.
“It’s that flashback where you see all these different awesome memories that we had together on the field,” Jack said. “I think all of that comes together.”
Jacob, 21, is the son of 12-year MLB veteran Jack. He was MLB Pipeline’s No. 10 Draft prospect before going sixth overall.
Being the son of a former MLB player comes with high expectations, but Jacob has stepped up to the challenge and put himself in a good position to start his professional career.
“It’s going to be special being surrounded by family and friends,” Jacob said. “The support that my family and friends have brought me throughout this entire process, and career in general, it’s been amazing.”
At Grand Canyon University, he has been an integral part of the Lopes’ recent success. In his three-year tenure, Wilson has a slash line of .361/.419/.558 and has shown he can hold it down as a strong defensive shortstop. What stands out the most about Wilson’s career at GCU is his discipline at the plate. In 620 at-bats, he’s only struck out 31 times. Nineteen of those came during his freshman season.
As high as the expectations are, there are also plenty of benefits to being the son of a Major Leaguer. One is the obvious -- getting a taste of what it’s like to be around a Major League environment.
“I remember going to the Spring Training fields every day and going to the back fields and hitting with him,” Jacob said. “Watching him do all his work while I just sit to the side watching him. It was pretty cool growing up and seeing him be able to do all of that.”
The other advantage is learning from a Major League veteran. Jack started coaching Jacob shortly after his retirement. It continued at the prep level at Thousand Oaks High School, where Jack coached Jacob for three years. The experience also provided an outlet to grow closer as a family.
In July 2022, Jack Wilson got a call from newly-appointed GCU head coach Greg Wallis, who was an assistant coach at GCU for nine seasons before taking over the helm last summer. The coach wanted to know if the elder Wilson wanted to be on his staff.
It was an easy decision for Wallis. His presence would be a nice addition to a roster loaded with MLB connections, such as Homer Bush Jr. (Homer Bush's son), Kan Taguchi (So Taguchi's son) and Tyler Wilson (Steve Wilson's son).
“Who better to ask to come be on the coaching staff than Jack Wilson, another guy who's been a big league All-Star, played shortstop, has coaching experience and can bring that big league experience into our dugout to help our guys, because all of us want to go where he's been,” Wallis said.
As excited as Jack was to accept the offer, he still wanted to make sure it was OK with his son, who had already spent two seasons at GCU. Jacob said yes to a reunion.
“I didn’t really have him [around] in the first two years of college. He has always just been dad as a fan up in the stands,” Jacob said. “Sharing the same field again has been pretty special. To have him here as a dad and as a coach, he’s been great. He loves being around the guys, he loves bringing the energy. It’s been a pretty special year.”
Jack’s coaching philosophy with his son has never changed. It’s been the same since Little League, high school, college and, hopefully, the pros.
“When it came to starting that coaching journey with him, I wanted to pass on everything I was good at,” Jack said. “But, I really wanted to pass on the things I wasn’t [good] at.”
The Wilsons like to say their reunion at GCU was meant to be. The signs were all there.
Three days after Jacob got his offer from GCU, they went to their favorite spot, Dave & Busters, to celebrate by playing video games. Back in those days, the goal was to secure enough tickets to win a mystery signed baseball. To their surprise, the mystery ball was signed by former Major Leaguer Tim Salmon, one of the most successful players to come out of GCU’s program.
“At that point, the decision was made for us,” Jack said. “We have a life of faith. Our family is based on our fate in Christ, and there are definitely signs if we pay attention.”