Friday, November 18, 2011
#545) RICK WILKINS
Rick Wilkins came to the New York Mets when he was traded from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Lindsay Gulin on May 12, 1998. The veteran catcher was obtained to fill a void left by the injuries to catchers, Todd Hundley, Tim Spehr, and Todd Pratt. "I thought he had a lot of upside," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said at the time of the trade. "He's done a lot of things at the major-league level. I thought he was a good bet. I'm hoping I was right." The team's general manager, Steve Phillips was concerned with Alberto Castillo as the only healthy option. "It's too uncertain. We didn't want to get caught with Castillo going down, and have Jim Tatum as our only catcher." said Phillips.
Rick made his team debut behind the plate on May 14th at Jack Murphy Stadium. He was hitless in four at-bats during New York's 3-1 loss to the San Diego Padres. Wilkins would not collect his first hit in a Mets uniform until his first game at Shea Stadium. His single to right field drove in the first run of the 5-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds on May 19th.
The Mets options at catcher quickly changed when the club acquired Mike Piazza on May 23rd. Wilkins was sent to Triple-A Norfolk where he finished out the season with the Tides. During this time he partially tore the labrum in his shoulder, but did not require surgery. At the conclusion of the season he elected to become a free agent and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization on March 6, 1999. "Guys are playing until they're 36, 37, 38," said Wilkins in 1999. "I still have quick hands and feet. I still have a quick bat. I think that age is overrated in major-league baseball."
Wilkins retired from playing after the 2002 season. In 1993 (a year that saw him hit 30 home runs and a .303 average with the Chicago Cubs) he established the Rick Wilkins Foundation. With the help of his brother, Ray they have raised money to support various organizations that work with adults with disabilities. The idea began as a tribute to their sister, Trisha who was born with cerebral palsy. "This is strictly a labor of love," said Ray Wilkins.
The Rick Wilkins Academy of Baseball was opened in 2009. The indoor facility located in Mandarin, Florida has batting cages, pitching machines and personal instruction. "It's good to come home and settle back where it started and provide an opportunity for those in the area."explained Wilkins.
I created Rick Wilkins card in the set from an autographed index card purchased on November 18, 2011.