Stephen Bradley Wilkerson (born June 1, 1977 in Owensboro, Kentucky) is a former Major League Baseball outfielder and first baseman. Wilkerson played with the Montreal Expos, Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, and Toronto Blue Jays. He bats and throws left-handed.
A line drive hitter and versatile defensive player, Wilkerson attended the University of Florida and was selected by the Montreal Expos in the first round (33rd pick) of the 1998 Major League Baseball Draft.
Wilkerson played for the national junior team in 1995. He was both a pitcher as well as a hitter. He was the MVP of the World Junior Championship, pitching a three-hit shutout against Taiwan in the gold medal game and hitting .360 with three home runs and eight RBI for the tournament, leading Team USA in homers and RBI. A two-time first-team All-American, Wilkerson led Florida to the College World Series in 1996 and 1998 with both his hitting and pitching. The Gators went to the College World Series, where Brad hit a dramatic grand slam to beat state rival Florida State.
The Gators made a return trip to the CWS two years later in Wilkerson's junior year. As a junior, he became the first player in college history to hit 20 home runs, steal 20 bases, and win 10 games as a pitcher in the same year. He was named the College Player of the Year by Rotary Smith.
Initially, Wilkerson struggled in the minors. In 1999, Wilkerson hit only .235 with eight home runs and 49 RBI at Double-A Harrisburg, a challenging assignment for his first full professional season. Back in the Eastern League to start the (2000) season, Wilkerson tore up the league, hitting .336, 6, 44 with 36 doubles. He was on pace to break the Eastern League record for doubles in a season before he was promoted to Triple-A Ottawa, of the International League. For the season, he was hitting .304-15-75 with 47 doubles in 408 at-bats.
While coming up through the minors, Wilkerson was a member of the gold medal-winning USA baseball team in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. In one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history, Team USA defeated Cuba 4-0 in the Gold Medal Game.
Major league career
From 2002-2003, Wilkerson delivered almost identical seasons with a .266 average, 20 home runs and 59 RBI in (2002), and .268, 19, 77 in (2003). In 2002, he hit 20 home runs, an Expos rookie record and was named Rookie of the Year by The Sporting News. His most productive season came in (2004), when he posted career-highs in homers (32), hits (146), doubles (39), runs (112), walks (106), slugging percentage (.498) and OPS (.872), and hitting .255 with 67 RBI. In 2004, he hit the last home run in Expos history. He appeared once more in a Montreal Expos uniform during the Major League Baseball Japan All-Star Series shortly after the 2004 regular season. The Expos were to become the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season, prompting some to refer to Wilkerson as "The Last Expo."
Wilkerson opened the 2005 season as the regular center fielder and leadoff hitter for the new Washington Nationals. On December 7, 2005, Wilkerson was traded to the Texas Rangers along with outfielder Terrmel Sledge and minor league pitching prospect Armando Galarraga for second baseman Alfonso Soriano.
Wilkerson has hit for the cycle twice, the first on June 24, 2003, against Pittsburgh (with the Expos). In that occurrence, Wilkerson became the first player since 1957 to have the minimum four plate appearances and hit for a natural cycle. The second time was on April 6, 2005, against Philadelphia (with the Nationals).
While playing for the Texas Rangers in 2007, Wilkerson hit three home runs in one game - the third player to do so in 2007 behind Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee. An injury to, and later the trade of, Mark Teixeira led to Wilkerson making many of his starts at first base in 2007.
On January 31, 2008, Wilkerson signed a one-year contract with the Seattle Mariners. On April 30, he was designated for assignment, and on May 8 was given his unconditional release. May 9, he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays .On August 22, he was put on the 15-day disabled list by the Toronto Blue Jays .
On February 2, 2009, Wilkerson agreed to a minor league contract with the Boston Red Sox.. He was expected to compete with Jeff Bailey and Chris Carter for the injured Mark Kotsay's role as the backup first baseman and fifth outfielder on the team. However, during Spring Training, Wilkerson hit only .200, and stuck out half the time he came to the plate. Carter eventually won the job, and Wilkerson was demoted to the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox. He played one game with the PawSox before announcing his retirement from the sport, citing a "lack of fire."
He is married and has two kids, Gracie and Ava. On the field, Brad is affectionately known as "The Wilk." Originating during his days with the Expos, the nickname struck a chord with the Montreal faithful, who the coined the phrase "Ahya The Wilk!"
According to an 2007 interview on MLB on Five, he has been a Liverpool FC fan since childhood; coincidentally the club is now co-owned by Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks.
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube
- Official website
- Baseball America
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