Glenn Wilson says he's doing great. And why wouldn't he be? The rifle-armed outfielder, who was with the Phillies from 1984-87, was always a happy-go-lucky sort. He was voted the guy in Philadelphia you'd most like to have a beer with.So Wilson says he's doing great, and he means it.
Glenn Wilson says he's doing great. And why wouldn't he be? The rifle-armed outfielder, who was with the Phillies from 1984-87, was always a happy-go-lucky sort. He was voted the guy in Philadelphia you'd most like to have a beer with.
So Wilson says he's doing great, and he means it. And then he talks about how he had to overcome addiction to painkillers. How recent health challenges have included psoriatic arthritis and a blocked carotid artery. How his middle son, Lance Michael, named after former teammates Lance Parrish and Mike Schmidt, spent over two years in prison. How he became so depressed once as a player that he contemplated killing himself.
Wilson mentions his 2012 book, "Headed Home." In it, he writes openly about losing his father when he was 6, and how baseball's labor issues and adverse IRS rulings left him nearly broke late in his career.
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"I know I don't sound like that same fun-loving Glenn Wilson that was a Philadelphia Phillie. I'm living in a different era now," the 57-year-old said from his home near Houston. "So getting through that was good. Very bad times at the start, but the finish line was awesome. It's kind of like anything in life. Like a baseball season."
Wilson can pinpoint the moment when his life changed. It was Feb. 12, 2008. That was when, he believes, he had a visitation from the Holy Spirit.
Wilson knows some will roll their eyes. Some will think it was just a hallucination connected to the medications he was trying to wean himself from at the time. Some will just think he's crazy. He just knows he hasn't been the same since.
"This has been a complete turnaround of the heart," Wilson said.
Wilson is a licensed preacher now. He speaks in prisons. At least, he did until Lance, who also was hooked on pills, was put behind bars. In Texas, Wilson said, you can't do that if you have a relative who's incarcerated.
"As a father, I'd probably have to say that's the worst experience you can have with a child, other than death," Wilson said. "Man, that first year, you cry yourself to sleep every night."
Lance has now been paroled and already has a job. But that was just one of the trials Wilson and his wife, Kim, have endured.
Wilson was a first-round Draft choice of the Tigers in 1980, and he was in the big leagues two years later. He was traded to the Phils, along with John Wockenfuss, for Dave Bergman and Willie Hernandez with just days left in Spring Training in 1984. Wilson struggled that season while Hernandez won the American League MVP Award and the AL Cy Young Award and led the Tigers to a World Series championship.
Wilson says he was so upset by his own performance, especially compared to one of the players he was traded for, that he considered jumping from the top of a building in Clearwater.
"I stunk it up pretty bad. And I'm watching the guys I was just in Spring Training with win the World Series," Wilson said. "I nearly committed suicide. That hit me hard."
The next season, however, Wilson drove in 102 runs, made the NL All-Star team and led the league in outfield assists for the first of three consecutive seasons.
"Really and truly, the only fun time I had playing Major League Baseball, just total fun, was my four years in Philadelphia," Wilson said.
That's what Wilson was so upset when he was traded to the Mariners for Phil Bradley in December 1987. From there, he bounced to the Pirates and Astros, and then, after a two-year layoff, back to Pittsburgh before playing his last game in June 1993. He admits he became bitter toward the game.
Still, Wilson couldn't stay away. He became manager of the independent league Chillicothe (Ohio) Paints in 2005, and he took the team to the Frontier League championship round in three of his four years there.
"Baseball is the only thing I ever found in life that you wake up every day with excitement. Every day you wake up with a nervous stomach. And you can't wait to get to the ballpark," Wilson said. "I consider Philadelphia my hometown. I still wear baseball caps. And if I'm going to go buy a baseball cap, it's going to be a Phillies cap. I will always consider myself a Phillie."
A typical day now is to get up and have a cup of coffee before Kim, who runs her own interior design business, goes to work. Talk to Lance. Play golf. Come home and have dinner and watch television. And then do it again the next day, unless he has an opportunity to preach or do an autograph signing.
"I'm excellent. I have three grandkids. Feeling very healthy. And I'm looking forward to the next chapter," Wilson said. "My life is so awesome because I understand how I got here and where I'm going."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com.