Storm Wilson taking monster mentality into junior season

NOTE: The second of a 16-part series of individual feature stories, leading up for No. 25 Kentucky’s 2016 season opener at Wofford on Feb. 19. Saturday, learn about junior outfielder Storm Wilson, an on-base machine at the top of the UK lineup.  Part 1: Dustin Beggs

Kentucky redshirt junior outfielder Storm Wilson is a worker, a student of the game and a one who is used to constantly tinkering in the batting cage.

Coming off a breakout, all-star summer in the grueling Northwoods League, Wilson is no longer tinkering with the physical aspects of his swing. He is trusting in the process of his work with decorated UK offensive coordinator Rick Eckstein and it has paid off.

During the fall practice season, Wilson led the team in average (.406), on-base percentage (.486), OPS (1.049) and most importantly, line-drive percentage (32%).

“There were very few talks about the physical aspect of my swing this fall,” Wilson said. “I want to get to my best swing every time and that is what I focused on. Having that monster mindset, being able to trust the process and not focus on the result. If I strike out, flare a ball or roll over, I can’t get upset about that. I have to move on to the next pitch or the next at-bat, be able to take it one pitch at a time, trust in myself and my ability. That is what Eckstein really preaches and it has started to sink in.”

Over the summer, Wilson was a monster, both mentally and physically. He hit .304 in 50 games, with 37 runs, 12 doubles, a triple, five homers and 22 RBI, stealing 22 bases and owning more walks than strikeouts. All in the grind of the Northwoods League which is regarded as one of the nation’s elite summer leagues and features a jam-packed schedule.

“We had a great group of guys and it was a good experience,” Wilson said. “The games, playing that many in that short amount of time, it was tough. It wore down my body quite a bit. They say the Northwoods is about as close to the minor leagues as you are going to get, and I believe it. Traveling every single day gives you a good feel for how it is going to be in professional baseball.”

A product of Somerset High School, Wilson emerged as a fixture in the UK lineup as a redshirt freshman in 2014, hitting .289 (37-for-128) in 34 starts, with six doubles, four homers and 20 RBI. This came a year after arriving on campus as a switch hitter and struggling through the challenges of a redshirt season and the switch to a solely left-handed approach.

His summer and fall productivity came after what Wilson would describe as a disappointing sophomore season.

He played in 46 of UK’s 55 games, making 39 starts. Wilson hit .242 (32-for-132) with 21 runs, six doubles, two triples, one homer and 16 RBI, owning a 21-24 walk-strikeout ratio and a .379 on-base percentage. Always aggressive on the bases, Wilson stole eight bases in 12 attempts.

“I’ve grown a lot, not only physically as a baseball player but mentally as well,” Wilson said. “Last preseason, I put a lot of pressure on myself. I thought I needed to be the guy to step up and be a big leader and I didn’t handle it well. Now, Coach Eckstein and I just talk a lot about being mentally tough and having that monster mindset instead of looking at every single thing you do wrong, micromanaging and over analyzing you self.

“Now, just seeing the big picture and understanding that it is a process and not looking at the results. This preseason has helped me grow a lot in the mental aspect.”

His work with Ecsktein and former UK hitting coach Brian Green – now the head coach at New Mexico State – has been instrumental in his development.

“Coach Eck and I are very close,” Wilson said. “It isn’t so much about physically in my swing, it was more about the mental aspect, getting out of my own way and being able to just do it every single day, getting to my potential. Last year, it didn’t go my way and Eckstein and I would have countless talks about how to fix it. This year it has been simple, I’ve grown to where I don’t need that constant reminder from him. I am able to do that on a daily basis. He has been unbelievable for me and my growth as a baseball player.”

A speedy left-handed hitting outfielder, with an on-base mentality and an ability to slash line drives is a role the Wildcats are in need of after replacing Kyle Barrett and Ka’ai Tom, who have graduated their all-conference pedigrees to professional baseball.

“I finally understand what my identity and role is and I know not to get outside of that,” Wilson said. “I am not going to be the guy that hits a bunch of home runs. I am the guy who gets singles, doubles, steals some bases and get on base. If I stick to my role, know what I can do, then my success level is going to increase.”

A fourth-year junior, Wilson joins a close-knit group of upperclassmen that includes seniors Zach Arnold, Dustin Beggs, Kyle Cody, Dylan Dwyer, Dorian Hairston, Zach Strecker and Bo Wilson.

“It is a good feeling being able to count on those guys, not just for baseball,” Wilson said about his bond with the seniors. “It correlates to baseball as well, to take that mindset of being able to go to war with your guys. It is a unique thing to have a large group of seniors in college baseball and we are going to take advantage of that.”

SEASON TICKETS NOW ON SALE
Fans can begin purchasing new season tickets and single-game tickets for the 2016 Kentucky baseball season.

For more information on UK baseball tickets, contact the Kentucky ticket office at (859) 257-1818 or visit UKathletics.com/tickets.

2016 Season Tickets:
$55 – Reserved Seating
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