LANGLEY — It’s been more than a year since Colton Wilson stepped onto Falcon Field for a game of baseball.
But what a return Friday night for the Falcon catcher.
Wilson stepped to the plate and fielded a grounder thrown by Falcon coach Dave Guetlin. And when he snuck behind athletic director John Patton to get back to first on a busted infield play, the crowd roared their approval.
In just two short innings, Wilson energized the hundreds who came to celebrate not a regular baseball game, but the teen whose singular request has amazed everyone within earshot — a simple wish of nothing for himself, but everything for his school and the game he loves.
Last week, hard work and lots of money from the Make-A-Wish Foundation and private donors combined as people gathered to dedicate the renovated baseball field at South Whidbey High School.
Unlike every other request the foundation has received, Colton’s was something different. Instead of something for himself, he asked the foundation to renovate the ball field at South Whidbey High School.
Watching from the new bleachers, classmate and long-time friend Leah Hughes noted the change in Wilson. “What he did was so selfless; it’s very powerful,” she said. “He’s matured a lot in the last year and become a role model for all of us.”
It was clear from the start that Wilson’s wish was tied to something special.
“I’ve loved baseball since I was first introduced to the game,” Wilson wrote to the foundation last summer. “The first time I stepped on the field I knew that this would always be my favorite sport.”
In 2006, Colton was a freshman on the junior varsity team. He had a .400 batting average and every intention of playing on the varsity squad. Then the world came crashing down on him.
“It was the week of baseball camp that I found out I had cancer. I was on my way to camp when my shin started to hurt,” Wilson said in his letter. “That same week,
I was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma cancer and just recently had five inches taken out of my shin bone which was replaced with a donor bone.
Wilson then got to the heart of the matter.
“I hope that when I heal, I can get back on the field. Although, if for some reason I am not able to, I want other kids from my high school to have a field that is worthy of playing on.
“The reason I chose this for my wish is because my community has been behind me with each step of this hard experience that I’m going through.”
As FSN Sports spokesperson Jen Mueller read Wilson’s letter, there wasn’t a sound from folks jammed into the new bleachers.
It has been a long road for Wilson and his family. Diagnosed last August, Wilson has spent much of the last 10 months at Children’s Hospital in Seattle undergoing rigorous chemotherapy treatments.
He discovered he wasn’t alone. Among others, he met Tanner Perry from Cashmere. Tanner was present at the dedication with his parents John and Tracy.
“Yeah, Colton and Tanner were inmates together for chemo treatments at the hospital,” John Perry joked. His son doesn’t play baseball but said he’d like to watch Wilson play next year.
“I’m a runner, cross country and track,” Tanner said. “I’m doing radiation now and feel lots better.”
The Make-A-Wish folks were out in force as people admired the new bleachers, batting cages, Astroturf, refurbished dugouts, fresh paint, fence cap and upgraded equipment.
“Everyone wanted to be involved once they heard Colton’s story,” wish coordinator Jessie Elenbaas said. “There was magic in the air.”
Through it all, Wilson good-naturedly sat just forward of the pitcher’s mound as speakers extolled the generosity of his spirit.
The Pacific Northwest Jewelers Association gave him a new Swiss Army watch.
“We’ve given over one million dollars to Make-A-Wish kids since 1999,” executive director Barbara Walker said. “Colton was a special case.”
The foundation presented him with a plaque to forever mark his gift.
But Wilson’s eyes really lit when a personal message was played from his hero, former Mariner catcher Dan Wilson.
“I was inspired by your story,” the baseball star said.
When the teen was presented with Wilson’s jersey, autographed by the major leaguer, he couldn’t stop grinning.
No one else could, either.
The whole family, including brother and sister Bryan and Stina Wilson from California, were on hand as Wilson’s father Todd publicly thanked all the South Whidbey people who helped.
Then it was baseball coach Dave Guetlin’s turn.
“To me, Colton has given everyone a chance to have good memories and follow our dreams,” Guetlin said. “You’ve touched a whole lot of people’s lives. Colton, I look forward to the time I can write your name on the starting line-up and see you run onto the field.”
As a preview of things to come, a brief exhibition game against the school’s teachers was played — Wilson hit the ball and played third base, where he had the great pleasure of tagging teammate Danny Parra out.
Guests lined up to get a chance to hit in the new batting cages and use the top-of-the-line equipment donated to the team by Joe’s, formerly G.I. Joe’s.
After the ceremony, Wilson wrapped it up as simple as three-strikes-and-you’re-out.
“Thank you,” he said simply. “This is so cool.”