Mar 17, 2016

Early 2000's Mets Back Up Catcher: Vance Wilson (1999--2004)

Vance Allen Wilson Was born on March 17, 1973 at Mesa, Arizona. The local high school baseball star, made Junior All American at Mesa Community College, getting drafted by the New York Mets down in the 44th round of the 1993 draft. 

After batting .302 in the NY / Penn. League in his initial year, his minor league career was hampered with injuries. He finally peeked into the majors for one game in 1999 as a defensive replacement. He spent the 2000 season at AAA Norfolk as the teams main catcher, hitting 16 HRs with 62 RBIs while batting .260. He did appear in four games as a pinch hitter (going 0-4) that September for the 2000 NL Champion Mets but saw no post season action. 

In 2001 he was brought up in July, as the team's third string catcher behind Mike Piazza & Todd Pratt. In 32 games he hit well, batting .298 (17-57) with three doubles & six RBIs. By 2002 he was Piazza’s primary backup catcher, usually coming in as a late inning defensive replacement or make starts behind the plate during inter-league play.

Wilson was not playing because of his hitting, it was his defense. He was among the top backstops in the league in throwing out would be base stealers, nailing 45% or better for three straight seasons. Wilson got into 70 or more games behind the playe in Mike Piazza's later years as a Met, from 2002-2004. 

In his first game of the 2002 season, he entered in the 7th inning as a defensive replacement, in the 9th inning he doubled home two runs, adding to the Mets 11-2 win over the Atlanta Braves. On April 13th he hit his first career HR, it came at Shea Stadium in a 9-8 loss to the Montreal Expos. Later that month he drove in runs in three straight games, then drove in the winning run in a 2-1 win over Milwaukee Brewers.

 Wilson had a two hit, two RBI day on June 29th, as the Mets beat their cross town rivals 11-2 in the subway series in the Bronx. On August 8th he had a three hit day, driving in a pair of runs in the Mets 9-0 win at Milwaukee. That day he was behind the plate calling a five hit shutout for Steve Trachsel. On September 8th he hit a three run HR at Veterans Stadium, having a season best four RBI day in the Mets 11-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. 

 In 2003 he had career highs in games (96) at bats (268) hits (65) HRs (8) runs scored (28) & RBIs (39). In April he started off the year well with nine RBIs & two HRs, finishing the month batting at .287. On May 6th he connected for a solo HR off the Dodgers Odalis Perez, giving the Mets back to back HRs, after Tony Clark had hit one out as well. The Mets went on to a 3-2 win behind Pedro Astacio. He hit safely in ten of thirteen games, as he briefly flirted over the .300 mark. 

In June he hit safely in another ten of twelve games, including five multi hit games in the first two weeks of the month. Wilson then had a big series in Texas during interleague play with the Rangers. On June 10th he hit a three run HR, then came back the next day to hit another two run shot, while driving in a career best five RBI day. He had a productive July driving in eight runs as he played in 19 games. He tailed off the rest of the season & saw little action in September. He was solid defensively again behind the plate, throwing out 45% of would be base stealers posting a .990%. 

 The next year, he came back to hit .274 with a career high ten doubles & four HRs. On May 13th he led the Mets to a 7-4 win in Arizona with a three run HR off Brandon Webb. On June 1st he added a two run tenth inning HR, off Tim Worrell to beat the Phillies in Philadelphia 4-1. By early August he was batting over the .290 mark, but fell off from there & only saw action in three games that September. He played in 79 games (69 behind the plate) with 21 RBIs throwing out just 34% of base stealers as Injuries began to set him back again. 

In January 2005 the Mets sent him to the Detroit Tigers for Anderson Hernandez. In his Mets career he hit .254 with 17 HRs 92 RBIs & 29 doubles in 286 games played over six seasons. 

 He hit only .197 his first season in Detroit but rebounded the following season to bat .283 with 5 HRs & 18 RBIs in 56 games. In 2007 he needed Tommy John surgery and was expected to return for 2008, but then more injuries ruined his chances. In 2009 he signed a minor league contract with the Kansas City Royals, batting .270 in 59 games at AA Northwest Arkansas. 

In his eight season career, Wilson batted .250 with 238 hits, 42 doubles 25 HRs 129 RBIs while posting a .302 on base %. He threw out 40% of base runners trying to steal (90 of 245), posting a .990 fielding %, making 18 errors in 2388 innings behind the plate. 

Retirement: In 2011 he was manager of the Kane County Cougars, a Kansas City Royals, A ball affiliate. In 2012 he managed the advanced A ball Wilmington Blue Rocks & was promoted to the AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals in 2014. The Naturals began playing in 2008.

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