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'I might not have a chance to get noticed in my senior year.' Eisenhower's Devin Wilder waiting on baseball verdict
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HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS

'I might not have a chance to get noticed in my senior year.' Eisenhower's Devin Wilder waiting on baseball verdict

MacArthur Eisenhower baseball 32 5.08.19.JPG (copy)

Eisenhower senior Devin Wilder, left, is waiting to find out if he has a spring baseball season. He's hoping to get noticed by college scouts.

DECATUR — For 14 years, Devin Wilder has been putting on baseball cleats, walking on to various fields and playing the sport that captured his heart.

He stayed around for winless seasons at Eisenhower that included a lot of struggles, growing pains and lopsided losses. He's been on the mound as leads washed away and has picked up a teammate after an error lost a game. This year, though, was supposed to be different.

Wilder spent his summer eating right, playing more baseball than he's ever played while alongside his Eisenhower teammates in summer baseball in an effort to get better. He stuck around when his head coach, Kevin Hale, was battling kidney failure and through Hale's recovery.

Baseball matters too much to Wilder for him to blindly walk away, even if the road map pointed him in a different direction. He hoped this season was going to be the year that the wins started coming and he got the attention of college scouts, keeping his annual love in his grasp.

Now, he doesn't know if he'll have that opportunity on the field. No one does. The COVID-19 pandemic has spring sports postponed and players and coaches await word to find out if they'll be back on a field this season, or in Wilder's case, in his career.

“This year I felt like it was going to be my best year because I worked so much," said Wilder, a senior. "I did everything I could to get better. I played more baseball than I ever have in the last year. I was just ready. (Hale) said we might not have a season and I just couldn’t believe it."

Wilder was one of a large group of players who played for the Macon County Jokers travel team that won eight games and made marked improvements from the spring. Then Wilder played fall baseball to continue to refine and hone his skills.

All of it to set up for his senior season.

“That’s the thing that makes me sick to my stomach is a kid like Devin, he’s going to lose something that he fought so hard for," Hale said. "He might be the saddest story in Decatur if nobody takes a chance on him and he doesn’t get a chance to play again."

Wilder said this season's team had chemistry from playing together for a few years and the summer was a sign that the doors were starting to open and the team was showing improvement. Hale said Wilder used to constantly request to get him the gym for swings in the batting cage. When Wilder set the groundwork, others followed.

“I miss practice," Wilder said. "I miss being there for hours a day, working. He helps us get better every time we step in the gym or on the field or anything. I feel like I shouldn’t just be sitting here. I feel like that’s not the work he’s put in or our team has put in for him."

Wilder plays all over the infield for the Panthers: First base, third base, catcher and pitcher. When a teammate makes a mistake, Wilder trots over to them with Hale alongside and they explain the error and how to get better.

It's investment beyond innings, even with a 1-51 record in two seasons as a starter.

“He never left my side. Ever. Ever," Hale said. "Think about that. Then he marched through this torrid hot summer to help these kids get better and helped me coach the team. You can’t put a price on a warrior like that. That’s why I thought we had an opportunity with our improvement to win more than one game, to compete and maybe win some conference games."

In the interim, without baseball, Wilder will keep working out at home and playing catch in the yard with his brother. He'll keep wishing himself back on the field in the same jersey he threw on after the shutdown to post for a photo to send to Hale.

And Hale will keep wishing that the player who helped him load his car after kidney surgery or raced to the infield to check on him after he took a come-backer to the chest will have another chance to play — and, finally, win.

They had been sending videos of Wilder in the batting cage to college coaches. Their hope is it's enough.

“It’s kind of scary for me," Wilder said. "The scariest part is this year I feel like I’ve reached my full potential. I’ve worked a lot. I might not have a chance to get noticed in my senior year."


 

PHOTOS: MacArthur beats Eisenhower

 

 

Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25

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