“I just feel that they both are a story that a walk-on dreams about,” the Lipscomb University baseball coach said about his two players from Wheeler, Tyler and Lee Wilson. “They’re the exception to the rule. They both came to our school as players walking on, and they definitely have a storybook ending.”
Around this same time two years ago, Tyler Wilson sent an e-mail to Forehand expressing his interest in attending a Christian university and playing college baseball. He had just played two seasons at Itawamba Community College and had played in a summer league in Nashville.
“We gave him a shot, and sure enough he’s starting,” said Forehand, who has coached Wilson the past two years.
Wanting to play with his brother for one more season, Lee Wilson turned down offers from Freed-Hardeman University and the University of North Alabama. Instead, he opted to try to walk on at Lipscomb.
“He had come to camps and we had seen him a little bit,” Forehand said. “We didn’t see how he would fit in on our team. His brother said he kept wanting to come to school here.
“Lo and behold, he kept making an impact everyday at practice. As a walk-on, he showed up and won his job.”
But it wasn’t easy in the early going for the younger Wilson, who will be a sophomore in the fall.
“I went up there and kind of struggled in the fall,” Lee said of his freshman year. “I didn’t have many hits or show out.
“But something clicked over the Christmas holidays, after the fall, and I went back in the spring and it seemed like no one could get me out. I pretty much lucked out, and the rest was history.”
Despite his coaches possibly having some doubts, Tyler said he didn’t have any concerns that his brother would make it at Lipscomb.
“I had been up there and saw the caliber of players. I had already played three seasons of college baseball,” said Tyler, who played his final collegiate season this past spring. “I knew Lee would be fine. It helped that he had the confidence as well.
“We didn’t worry too much. We got him there and he did the rest.”
Out of the Bisons’ everyday starters, the Wilson brothers ranked 1-2 in batting average this past season – Lee hit .339, while Tyler batted .331. They also happened to hit 1-2 in the lineup, with Tyler batting leadoff, while patrolling the outfield together on defense, Tyler in center and Lee in right.
In high school, the two brothers were a double-play combo. Tyler played shortstop and Lee was at second.
“Unfortunately, we only had Tyler for two years,” Forehand said. “Fortunately, we have Lee for four years.
“They earned that (starting jobs). You come in at the bottom of the totem pole and you start earning a spot. They both did that and they both earned that.”
When Wheeler High baseball coach James Shaw would arrive at the high school at 7 a.m. in the summer to begin his work day, he would see Tyler and Lee Wilson near the baseball field, pulling tires and hitting off tees.
The Wilsons lived – and still do – right across the street from the Wheeler school, and older brother Zack can be labeled as the primary instigator in their workout habits. But, if it wasn’t for their father, Wayne Wilson, then Zack probably wouldn’t have picked up those habits in the first place.
After working out with his father for so many years, Zack would push Tyler to work hard and keep striving to get better. Then, it was Tyler’s turn to do the same for Lee.
“It was mostly my older brother’s intentions to get me up and get me out there to drag tires and run sprints – try to do whatever we could to get ourselves better,” Lee said.
It’s no wonder why Lee was a starter on the varsity in the eighth grade and a two-time all-state selection in Class 1A.
“They were never satisfied with being some of the better (Class) 1A ball players,” Shaw said. “They’re proud to be from Wheeler, but they weren’t satisfied with being a good 1A player.”
This past season, Tyler broke the Lipscomb record for most stolen bases in a season with 40.
Meanwhile, Lee was named to the Atlantic Sun All-Freshman team and has gone on to tear up the American Legion Baseball circuit.
For the Pontotoc Red Sox, he had been batting above .650 for most of this summer, and has had 20-for-24 and 11-for-16 hitting performances in the Brooks Robinson Twin Lakes Classic and the state tournament, respectively.
“I don’t think I had a kid hit over .650,” said Nickey Browning, who has coached the Red Sox for 38 seasons. “Not that I can remember.
“Normally, if you have a player hitting in the .400s, he’s doing really good because you face good pitching. It’s very unusual for a (Legion) player to hit in the .400s or .500s – very unusual especially in the .500s.”
Both Tyler and Lee believe they can have success against the country’s best players. All they need is a chance.
“I think I can play at the bigger schools at the SEC level,” Lee said. “Lipscomb played Vanderbilt and Tennessee this season. I looked across the field at the other dugout and didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t play with that team.
“I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t play with any school I wanted to if they’d give me a chance.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572