Wilhelmsen takes long journey back to baseball
The phone call came on a Sunday. Father's Day. John Wilhelmsen heard the words coming from the voice on the other end, but they didn't really register.Walking away? How could this be? As far as John was concerned, Wilhelmsens didn't walk away. They were loyal to the task at hand. But here was John's son, Tom -- a talented, hard-throwing right-hander in the Milwaukee Brewers' farm system -- telling him he was walking away from professional baseball. On Father's Day, of all days. Maybe it wouldn't have mattered much if John didn't believe so strongly in his son's abilities. But he had coached countless kids at Tucson High School over the years. Some of them had gone pro, but none of them could throw the ball as well as his son. So to hear Tom, owner of that arm, telling him the retirement papers had been signed in the parking lot outside the Brewers' complex the previous day was a real punch in the gut to John. He listened calmly, but inside he was burning. Tom was just 20 years old and already giving up on a dream. In that moment, on that day seven years ago, it was clear the dream belonged more to the father than the son. When he hung up, John thought about his options. "Should I run over and give him a stern talking to," he asked himself, "or let him figure it out on his own?" The stern talk might have worked back in the day, when John was Tom's age. Not now. His son would have to venture off into life, make his own mistakes and live with and learn from their consequences. Still, watching Tom walk away from baseball broke John's heart. He knew his son was giving up on something special. He never could have imagined the way Tom would reclaim it.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.