Wilson inducted into Grand View University’s Hall of Fame
ST. JAMES — All-state choice. All-star catcher. All-section selection. All-conference’s top hitter.
Even after earning all of the above high school baseball honors during his senior season, Fairmont Cardinal standout Jon Wilson still had some doubts about his ability to play at the collegiate level.
Wilson, however, left little doubt in the minds of Midwest Classic Conference opponents — specifically pitchers and base stealers — that he was a legitimate force to be wreckoned with for the Grand View University Vikings on the NAIA diamond from 1991-94.
Fast forward 25 years, and Wilson — a 2014 Fairmont Hall of Fame inductee — became only the seventh baseball player enshrined in Grand View’s Athletic Hall of Fame on Sept. 28 at the Des Moines-based campus.
“Honestly, I didn’t ever think of myself as a Hall of Fame kind of player, but driving back home (St. James) on that Sunday after the banquet, it clicked that I did have a good college baseball career,” said Wilson. “It was a humbling experience to be one of the few baseball players to be inducted in the short history of the school’s hall of fame.
“It’s hard to wrap my brain around the fact that I’m in the company of such great athletes and outstanding people.”
The 1990 Fairmont High School graduate handled Grand View’s catching duties for four seasons, earning all-region, all-district and all-conference during all four years.
The hard-hitting Wilson topped the Vikings in batting average during his freshman campaign to guide Grand View to the 1991 NAIA World Series. The strong-armed signal-caller collected six hits in 12 official at-bats during the three-game span.
“Playing in the NAIA World Series was an experience I’ll never forget. It was only the third time that Grand View had qualified for it, and we were the only team to have won a game there,” said Wilson.
The former St. James Area High School baseball coach, current Saints head football coach and high school social studies teacher went on to earn NAIA All-American honorable mention status in baseball during his first three collegiate seasons before being tabbed second-team All-American as a senior.
Wilson committed only one error behind the plate during his final season in 1994, establishing a single-season fielding percentage record for Grand View.
“I’m actually proud of that one since a catcher handles a lot of pitches throughout a season, but I heard that record was broken,” said Wilson. “That’s the thing about records — they’re made to be broken.”
Wilson also etched his name into the Vikings’ baseball record books by connecting for six triples in one season.
“Being a catcher, some people don’t think we have much speed, but it helped that I was a gap hitter playing in a ballpark where it was 450 feet to both right-center and left-center,” Wilson said with a laugh.
Fittingly, long-time Grand View head baseball coach Lou Yacinich, and University president Kent Henning presented Wilson as a member of the school’s 21st Hall of Fame class.
“It was a real honor to have both of them at my induction,” said Wilson. “Lou was a great coach and helped change my (batting) stance to generate more power at the next level.
“I wouldn’t been the player I was without him.”
Like all great athletes, Jon Wilson’s parents — Bill and Mary Lou — also were an important influence on him throughout his developmental years and playing days on the diamond.
“My family’s support was incredible. My mom and dad came to every sporting event, and drove me to countless camps, practices and games throughout the years,” said Jon Wilson. “It was comforting to know they were always in the stands, cheering me onto success.”
In addition to being physically present at athletic events, Mary Lou Wilson diligently assembled a scrapbook documenting Jon’s sports career, and he was able to recently take a stroll down memory lane prior to his Hall of Fame induction.
“My mom had saved a Grand View baseball roster from my freshman year there. After looking at it, I realized that only three of those 16 guys (fellow freshmen) originally on it actually made it for the entire four years,” said Jon Wilson. “When I decided to go to Grand View, I thought I’d be one of those 13 that didn’t make it the entire time instead of one of the three that did.