Wilson Forgoes Senior Season, Signs With Brewers

Third baseman was Milwaukee's 28th-round pick

Harvard third baseman Steffan Wilson has signed a contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, who selected him with the 851st overall pick in the 28th round of the 2007 MLB First-Year Player Draft on Friday.

The decision effectively ends Wilson’s collegiate career and paves the way for the hard-hitting right-hander to join the Helena Brewers of the rookie-level Pioneer League this summer.

A rising senior, Wilson had the option to sign with the club or return to the Crimson next spring, but the opportunity to join the professional ranks was too good for the State College, Pa., native to pass up.

“After looking at the package and the different things that I had on my plate, I decided that going was the best thing,” Wilson said. “This is something that I’ve been dreaming about for a long time—all little kids do. It was just tough to pass up once I got offered.”

Wilson, in his first year of draft eligibility, is coming off what he called a “relatively poor” junior season in which he hit .331 but managed only three home runs and a mere 17 RBI. Opposing pitchers were careful with him as the squad’s lone bona fide slugger and he earned a team-leading 20 walks. His 12 extra-base hits and .484 slugging percentage were career lows. That may have led to Wilson, who admitted getting nervous as the draft wore on, lingering on the board longer than expected.

“Obviously, everybody hopes to go higher,” Wilson said. “But they took me in the 28th, and maybe I deserved to go there. I think it’s going to work out just fine, so I’m not too worried about where I got picked, but I was just starting to worry that I wasn’t going to go at all.” f

Wilson was in the midst of practice with his Cape Cod Baseball League team when he received the news. It was on Cape Cod where Wilson vaulted onto scouts’ radars with a standout 2006 summer in the wood-bat league, regarded as one of the nation’s premier proving grounds for collegiate talent.

Wilson continues in a line of recent Harvard non-seniors confronted with the option of departing school early to test their fortunes in the bushes. John Wolff and Frank Herrmann, a late-round pick and a free-agent pickup, respectively, both left Cambridge after their junior campaigns in 2005. Zak Farkes elected to return to campus in 2004 to improve his standing after being taken by his hometown Boston Red Sox in the 39th round following a 14-homer sophomore season. But Farkes was not picked again the next summer and inked a free-agent deal with the Red Sox, forgoing his senior year.

“To be honest, I didn’t really think about what they had done and what they had decided, because for everybody it’s an individual choice,” Wilson said. “I knew that completing school was possible, even though it’s going to be a semester late, and I liked that they had tested the waters on that because there’s no way I would walk away from finishing up my degree.”

Wilson said he plans to attend classes during the fall semester before heading to Spring Training and hopes to return to Cambridge to finish his requirements the following fall.

Throughout the decision-making process, Wilson sought the counsel of his family and former coaches, including Crimson skipper Joe Walsh.

“He was supportive,” Wilson said of Walsh. “He began the conversation saying, ‘Regardless what you decide, I’m going to support your decision,’ which is great. He wanted to make sure that I didn’t rush into anything and that I thought it through…I think he would’ve preferred me to come back, but I think he understands.”

Wilson also benefited from the advice of his older brother Jon, a right-handed pitcher who was a 27th-round pick of the Texas Rangers in 2005.

“He played a few seasons, and now he’s older and wiser and has been around the scene that I’m starting to get into,” Wilson said. “He’s going to be, I’m sure, a great help to me and it’s been great having him around and helping me make some of the decisions.”

Although he was rated the top professional prospect in the Ivy League in the preseason by Baseball America, Wilson was ultimately the fourth Ivy player snatched up in this weekend’s draft. He trailed Brown catcher Devin Thomas (seventh round), Yale first baseman Marc Sawyer (15th round), and Princeton catcher Sal Iacono (26th round).

—Staff writer Jonathan Lehman can be reached at jlehman@fas.harvard.edu.