Thoughts on C.J. Wilson, Red Ribbon Week

A few months ago, I hung out for an hour with a major league baseball player.  On his turf.  In his house.  In the ballpark where I could still hear the roar of last year’s World Series crowds.  (Never dreaming that on this ­very day, in my home state, the Texas Rangers could be winning this year’s World Series.)

I expected to be star-struck by the 30-year-old lefty Rangers pitcher.  After all, when we met, C.J. Wilson was only a few days out from absolutely shellacking the Seattle Mariners with 12 strike-outs (tying his career high) in a complete game performance and win. 

I’ve been a baseball fan all my life.

I know that when a pitcher completes a game, it’s akin to running a marathon, or in C.J.’s case, building a racing team (a brand new venture for him).

There we were, my colleague  and me, killing time on the track right in front of the Rangers’ dug-out.  We were setting up for an interview and photo shoot with C.J. for The Partnership at Drugfree.org. 

I heard my colleague introduce herself to Brad, one of the two guys who came out of the tunnel.  I shook Brad’s hand, said, “Hi, I’m Beth,” and then said the same thing to the guy standing next to him as I shook his hand.  “C.J.,” was his reply.

Holy cow. 

Just like that, C.J. Wilson stood before me, black cap on backwards and in a red Ranger’s t-shirt with squiggly writing in the logo. (Turns out it was Japanese, as was his name on the back).

I think I then said something goofy like, “By the way, my last name is Wilson too so we are no doubt related.”  Somebody please save me from myself.

As we chatted with C.J., I was holding a Flip cam in my left hand, my camera in my right and concentrating on recording.  I soon became lost in C.J.’s straightforward, no-nonsense replies. 

Yes, he is drug-free, in fact has never had a drug. 

C.J. made a decision when he was eight years old that he wanted to play professional baseball.  A little league coach told him only two things could keep him from realizing his dream:  getting injured or getting involved with drugs and alcohol.  

Eight-year-old C.J.Wilson, now also a writer, a racing team owner and dude with about 2% body fat, thought to himself, “I can’t control getting injured by playing but I can control whether I allow drugs and alcohol to get in the way of playing baseball.”

He worked hard, studied, read books on technique and hung out with his grandfather who so influenced young C.J. that his name is tattooed on C.J.’s pitching arm.

C.J. is 30 now and surrounds himself with guys like Brad (an old California friend and also his assistant). They are all into giving back to kids, which is why we were there.  C.J. figures if he can influence one kid to choose the path he chose, and stay drug-free no matter what circumstances come up in life, he has done what he’s supposed to do. 

C.J. and I have that in common, in addition to sharing a last name.  One of my passions is educating parents and kids about the abuse of alcohol and drugs; it’s also the primary reason I’ve worked at The Partnership at Drugfree.org for nearly seven years.

Talking about maintaining a drug-free lifestyle is especially appropriate today.

We’re in the middle of Red Ribbon Week, the nation’s oldest and largest drug prevention program.

During this week, kids all over the country are participating in community anti-drug events and pledging to live a drug-free life.  Red Ribbon Week activities have been in place since 1988 and serve as a living memorial to Enrique “Kiki” Camerena, a DEA agent who was murdered by Mexican drug traffickers in 1985.

No, C.J. is not pitching in tonight’s Game Six of the 2011 World Series.  What he is pitching today, and every day, is even bigger than the biggest title in professional baseball.  Whether the Texas Rangers win or lose in St. Louis, C.J.’s pledge to remain drug-free is a complete and perfect game.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Beth,

    What a wonderful post. I love your comment on the last name connection – pretty funny. What a great role model C.J. Wilson is, and I appreciate that he is talking to kids and influencing them about living a drug free life. We need more like him!! Thanks for sharing.

    • Beth Wilson says:

      Thanks! By now we know the outcome of the World Series and unfortunately for C.J., the Rangers, and all their fans, they landed in the #2 baseball spot for 2011. I can’t begin to imagine how unbelievably disappointed the team is. However, what I believe C.J. would say if he were to comment here (and wouldn’t THAT be cool!) is that the baseball is a game that defines part of what he does for a living but is not who he is. He–as we all do–makes choices every day that contribute to our lives but ultimately, who we are as people is often based on what we don’t do. Each time we choose to not drink or drug, we take charge of our lives and we make it just a little bit easier to carry on with the details of living.

      Hope you’ve enjoyed a great weekend!

      Beth

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