This story from Larry Stone of the Seattle-Times was written just after he signed with Seattle this spring. It should catch you up on the background. A primer:
Jim Oskola of the Post-Crescent caught up with Wilhelmsen last night after the game.Tom Wilhelmsen still knows how to be the life of the party.
That's what the folks at The Hut, a tiki lounge in the college district of nearby Tucson, say about the head bartender who walked out on his baseball dream five years ago. The 6-foot-6, 220-pounder, who once lit up radar guns with a 97 mph fastball his first and only season of professional baseball in the Milwaukee Brewers system, is a bit of a local legend.
It's not so much the drinks he's spent years mixing there. More the engaging, laid-back personality that draws people in and keeps the party going. These days, the party is more about others than Wilhelmsen, who was a little too carefree with marijuana and having fun his first go-round in pro ball and wound up suspended for an entire season, burned out and looking for other ways to earn a living.
But now, nearly seven years since he last pitched in Class A, the onetime minor-league all-star is back for another try. Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik, who was with Milwaukee that lone season Wilhelmsen pitched back in 2003, has signed him to a minor-league contract in hopes there is still life in that arm.
"I've changed a lot of things about my life and thought a lot about what my priorities are," Wilhelmsen, still only 26, said Monday on his first full day here. "One of them is I wasn't sure I wanted to be a bartender for the rest of my life."
Wilhelmsen doesn't say this with malice. He loved the bartending job during the years he sought fulfillment after deciding baseball wasn't for him.
Despite being touted as one of the top arms in the Brewers' system at age 19, he insists he has no regrets about quitting. He simply wasn't ready to handle baseball as a full-time job.
"This go-round is a much better experience than it was seven years ago," Wilhelmsen said. "I'm a lot more mature and better understand how baseball works at this level. I'm having a lot more fun because I'm more responsible and understand it."Go read both...if you are interested.
Coming out of Tucson Magnet High School and becoming a professional baseball player was more than the then-teenager could handle.
There were two suspensions for failed drug tests when Wilhelmsen was in the Brewers system. Then in 2005, he retired from the game.
Before rediscovering his love for baseball, Wilhelmsen bartended and backpacked but found he missed the game.