Dean Wilkins can’t wait until his niece, Alyssa, begins kindergarten.
On the day she was born, Sept. 18, 1989, Wilkins earned his first major league victory by pitching two shutout innings as the Chicago Cubs beat the New York Mets, 10-6.
On Thursday, Alyssa took her first step. Hours later, Wilkins was recalled by Chicago from Iowa, the Cubs’ triple-A affiliate.
“My daughter’s his good-luck charm,” said Lori Wilkins, mother of Alyssa and sister of Dean.
Richard and Diane Wilkins of Mira Mesa will not soon forget that day late last summer.
In the morning, their only daughter gave birth to their first grandchild. Later that evening, their youngest son won his first major league game.
Call it delivery day.
The next morning, Richard left, as scheduled, on a five-day trip to Chicago to watch Dean pitch.
The Wilkins, Mira Mesa residents since 1970, have always been close.
In fact, when asked who was most influential in his development as a player, Dean Wilkins simply responded: “My family.”
“Through Little League, high school (Mira Mesa) and junior college (Mesa), they’re the ones who have helped me out the most,” he said.
Wilkins was drafted by the New York Yankees out of Mesa in the second round of the 1986 January draft and has been fairly successful.
In his first season with Oneonta, one of the Yankees’ Class-A clubs, he was 9-0 with a 3.13 earned-run average as a starter.
Wilkins’ break came when the Yankees traded him to the Cubs along with two other pitchers for Steve Trout in July, 1987. The Cubs made him a reliever and a prospect.
In 1988 with the Pittsfield Cubs, he set an Eastern League (double-A) record with 26 saves and a 1.63 ERA.
"(The Cubs) have a lot of home-grown products, unlike the Yankees, who usually trade them away,” Wilkins said.
With the Cubs in the midst of a pennant race, Wilkins was twice called up in 1989. The first stint lasted just 10 days (Aug. 21-31), but he was recalled again two days later when clubs were allowed to expand their rosters to 40 players.
Those Cubs won the National League East title, but because Wilkins was called up after the Sept. 1 deadline, he was ineligible for the playoffs, which the Cubs lost to San Francisco.
Because of the lockout and expanded 27-man rosters, he began this year at the big league level but was sent down three weeks later with one save.
He spent the next month and a half with Iowa compiling a 1-0 record, with four saves and a 2.67 ERA. In 27 innings, he struck out 26.
Wilkins’ strikeout numbers have always been high--he had 14 in 15 2/3 innings with the Cubs last year--but his forkball, not a fastball, is his best pitch.
Wilkins says that aside from superior skills, experience and discipline set major leaguers apart from those at other levels.
“They’ve been there for five, 10, 15 years,” Wilkins said. “You can’t make as many mistakes in the big leagues.”
Tim Howard, from Brawley High and Imperial Valley Community College, is tearing up the South Atlanta League (Class A) for the Mets. Entering Friday, Howard, a second baseman, was hitting .385 with four home runs, 40 RBIs and 11 stolen bases.
Likewise, Mike Hook, a Santana High graduate, is playing well for the Quad Cities Angels of the Midwest League (Class A). Hook is 3-1 with three saves, a 0.52 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings.
A fine pitcher while at USDHS, Gar Millay, an outfielder for the Oklahoma City Rangers (triple A) was brought in for an inning of mop-up work earlier this season.
Result: Two hits, a walk and two runs.
On the other end, Millay is hitting .294 with a home run and 17 RBIs.
Tony Clark might want to have a chat with Enoch Simmons.
Christian High’s Clark, who was the No. 2 pick in this week’s free agent draft by the Detroit Tigers, would like to play basketball for Arizona and baseball for the Tigers.
In 1988, Simmons played in both the NCAA basketball tournament and a College World Series regional for Loyola Marymount.
Shortly after, he was drafted by the Oakland A’s in the June draft. He hit .307 that summer and came back in the fall for his senior year of basketball at Loyola.
The next summer, Simmons hit just .222, and this year he’s hitting just .097.
In the past two weeks, Lincoln’s Keith Mitchell (Durham Braves, Class A) has gone 21 for 55 with 15 runs scored.
During that same period, Hoover’s Eddie Williams (Las Vegas Padres, triple A) is 20 for 58 with six homers, 19 RBIs and 15 runs.