Eli Wilson carries on family name behind the plate

Eli Wilson leads the Gophers with a .471 batting average.

Catcher/infielder Eli Wilson readies to hit the ball during a game against North Dakota State University at Siebert Field on Apr. 4, 2017.

Chris Dang

Catcher/infielder Eli Wilson readies to hit the ball during a game against North Dakota State University at Siebert Field on Apr. 4, 2017.

by Jack Warrick

Gophers catcher Dan Wilson was an All-American and first round draft pick in 1990.

Now, there is another Wilson behind the plate for Minnesota, but this time it’s Eli.

Gophers sophomore Eli Wilson, Dan’s son, has started the season off with the best batting average on the team through the first eight games. He has a .471 average with 17 at bats and eight hits.

“His son is a hard worker, like his father was, and has made unbelievable strides in the last 12 months from where he started” head coach John Anderson said. “I’m not surprised because he’s a hard worker and has some of Dan’s genes in his work ethic.”

Wilson played in just 24 of the 57 games last season and started 12. He finished the year with a .319 batting average on 47 at bats.

In his first eight games of this season, Wilson has shared time at catcher with catcher and infielder Cole McDevitt.

“We kind of got like a little tandem thing going,” Wilson said. “[McDevitt] looks pretty good at first base so when we need to, we slide him over to first base and I go back to catch. No competition or anything there for the starting role, just helping each other out.”

But Anderson said after Tuesday’s game that injuries might be putting McDevitt in the infield and Wilson out at catcher more.

Wilson’s position dwindled in depth when Alex Boxwell made a diving catch for a shallow fly ball to right center in the team’s home opener against NDSU. Boxwell recorded the out, but sprained his wrist in the process, prompting the Gophers to move around their defense and put Wilson at catcher.

Wilson grew up in Seattle, so he had to make the transition to Minnesota from out of state, similar to his father, who is from Illinois. Dan Wilson said that his son was used to going to Minnesota by the time he committed there.

“We used to come quite a bit, to alumni games, so he’d been around campus,” Dan Wilson said. “We’d go out there in the winter some.”

Anderson coached Dan Wilson when he played with the Gophers from 1988-90. Anderson said that it wasn’t the first time he’s coached his former players’ sons in his 37 years at Minnesota.

“There’s been a number of them. More than you’d probably imagine. But we’ve had upwards of 8-10 sons of former players here,” Anderson said.

Eli Wilson was drafted out of high school by the Seattle Mariners, his father’s former team. Eli said he isn’t bothered by being compared to his dad.

“I think it’s something I take pride in,” Eli Wilson said. “Obviously, he was a great player here and ended up having a good pro career. So he’s definitely someone I look up to. When I can I watch video of him catching and try to emulate him and see what I can do.”