By now, many people know the background story of new Seattle Mariners pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen: after a great debut season for the Milwaukee Brewers Class A affiliate in 2003, Wilhelmsen tested positive for marijuana twice and was suspended by the Brewers for the entire 2004 season. The following year he retired, bartended full-time at The Hut in Tucson, Arizona, and then backpacked around the world. Now fast forward to 2009, when he decided the itch to pitch was back. After pitching for the independent league Tucson Toros, Wilhemsen had a 15-minute tryout for Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik, and was signed by the Mariners to get his second shot at his dream of reaching the Major Leagues.
For the AquaSox, the Tom Wilhelmsen experience started on July 16th, 2010 when he was assigned to the AquaSox after a stint with the Peoria Mariners. Due to the AquaSox schedule and his positioning in the rotation, Tom never got the chance to pitch for the home crowd at Everett Memorial Stadium, but he did manage to make his mark regardless. He started three road games for the Sox, going 1-0 with a 3.68 ERA and 14 strikeouts. At home, he became a fan favorite to a crowd that never got to see him in action.
He was introduced to the AquaSox fans on AquaVision, with his own Meet Your AquaSox Video:
And reappeared as the AquaSox pitchers grew their mustaches:
On a day he wasn’t pitching, Wilhelmsen stayed after the game and led Launch-a-Ball as MC, pointing out prizes while ducking and dodging the tennis balls that flew on to the field and in to hula hoops. He also helped lead the celebration as the AquaSox clinched their spot in the playoffs with a walk-off win against Eugene on July 19th.
Even after getting called up to the Clinton LumberKings, Tom’s ferocious instructions for the fans to “UNLEASH…THE… EEEEEEEE!!!” lived on in the AquaSox intro video for the NWL playoff run. In Clinton, he went 6-1 with a 2.23 ERA and 73 strikeouts on his way to being named Midwest League Pitcher of the Week two weeks in a row.
Now, less than 9 months after making his debut with the AquaSox, Mariners manager Eric Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis have informed him that he has a spot in the bullpen with the major league club, and will be starting the season in Seattle.
We have caught up with Tom several times since he was called up, including a visit at the Arizona Fall League where he was working on his control and secondary pitches with the Peoria Javelinas. Tom told us that although his time in Everett was short, the people he met and the atmosphere created by Everett’s fans made it a memorable experience for him. He also has a visual reminder of his time in Everett: a pretty impressive NWL Championship ring. While Tom wasn’t here to be a part of the final game, he cemented his place as part of the 2010 AquaSox in the hearts of his teammates, coaches and fans & now takes his place as an AquaSox Alumni.
When he starts the season with the big league club, there will be plenty of fans making the drive down from Everett to see him in action… it’s about time they get a chance to see him pitch in person.
The Everett Herald covered Tom’s time with the AquaSox in an August 1st article titled “AquaSox pitcher’s diamond dreams get a second chance” – read the entire article at HeraldNet.com