Dodger Wilson ready to hit SCG for six
Explaining cricket to Americans is like trying to complete a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded.
But the biggest cult figure in Major League Baseball, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brian Wilson just gets it.
In January, while teammates were complaining about their looming 15-hour trip to Sydney, zany Wilson and his world famous beard were already here.
On vacation. At the SCG. For the Ashes.
“I drove by the stadium, I knew cricket was huge over here so thought I’d check the schedule,” said Wilson.
“I found out they were playing the Ashes.
“I just went out on my own. Showed up asked if I could come in and watch.
“We (Australia) haven’t fared against England too well in the past but we seem to have walloped them this time.”
Wilson is able to rattle off terminology like overs, bowlers, batsmen and centuries like he grew up with Bradman and not Babe – plus he’s calling Australia “we”.
And as the benchmark for facial-haired athletes and clutch, championship-winning pitchers – Wilson would have appreciated Mitchell Johnson’s feats more than most.
His knowledge of cricket is just one reason why Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly says about Wilson:
“Don’t judge the book by the cover.”
If you only watch one innings of Saturday night’s MLB season-opener between the Dodgers and Arizona, make sure it’s the eighth.
That’s when Wilson comes to the mound.
That’s when you need to “fear the beard”.
In 2010, that was the only phrase being chanted in San Francisco, as closing pitcher Wilson led the Giants to an emphatic World Series victory, finishing every playoff win with his signature cross-armed salute.
Virgin American Airlines even bearded one of their planes.
He once described himself in an interview as a “certified ninja”, but beneath the whiskers, the mangy mohawk and the masses of arm tattoos is an athlete who is anything but a gimmick and much more than a larger-than-life character.
In 2012, Wilson was cut by San Francisco after undergoing the second elbow reconstruction of his career.
Without the assistance of a club, the fittest pitcher in baseball rehabilitated himself and was picked up by the Dodgers as a free agent midway through last season.
“I didn’t want somebody training me with negative energy. I’m into it. I know what I want to do,” he said.
“When I’m on the mound, if I can say the most difficult thing I’ve done all day was my work-out, than pitching will be a lot easier.
“I don’t have time to think about negativity.”