Detroit — There are days, and no doubt Friday was one of them, when Alex Wilson feels that old itch again.
“I still think I could get an out or three,” he said, though he hasn’t recorded an out in professional baseball since 2019.
But there he was Friday night, back on the mound at Comerica Park, which used to be his office between 2015 and 2018, wearing the Old English D whites, No. 30 on his back. It was just a ceremonial first pitch, and he was throwing it to former teammate Michael Fulmer, but what the heck, two-seamer down and away, maybe caught the outer black?
“Swing-and-miss sinker,” he said, laughing.
Wilson was part of a group of former players invited back for the Tigers’ Summer Baseball Bash weekend.
“Physically I feel like I could still go,” he said. “But family-wise, it was necessary to get on with my life.”
If you don’t remember, Wilson was a multi-role workhorse for the Tigers, making 246 appearances and covering 264.2 innings out of the bullpen. He ended up with a 3.20 ERA and 1.116 WHIP, and was an extremely valuable performer for then-manager Brad Ausmus.
But he was a victim of the Tigers’ teardown. He wasn’t tendered a contract after 2018 and he ended up signing with the Brewers. He spent most of 2019 in Triple-A then signed a minor-league deal with the Tigers before COVID hit in 2020.
COVID killed his last stand.
Soon after he decided he needed to focus on his family, his wife Kristin and four young kids ages 9, 7, 5, 3. He had finished his degree in performance psychology at Texas A&M while he was playing but he wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to do with it.
He’d dabbled in real estate earlier and he’s currently running his own barbecue-catering company producing his own line of sauces and rubs. He’s partnered with Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman, producing Breggy Man Salsa and Breggy Man Barbeque.
“We’re just busy, just on the ground floor trying to build,” Wilson said.
But peddling sauces and rubs is more of a secondary pursuit. How does this sound: Alex Wilson, sports agent.
“On the day I called my agent to retire, they hired me,” Wilson said. “They said, ‘Do you want to join our agency?’ I said, ‘Um, sure, I don’t have any other plans.’”
Wilson is a full-fledged sports agent with the Dallas-based Ballengee Group. He is the agency’s mental skills expert and he’s gradually building his own clientele. His stable includes former Tiger Shane Greene and Reds pitcher Ryan Hendrix.
“It’s been kind of a blessing in disguise,” Wilson said of his early retirement from baseball. “I don’t have any regrets about playing or about when I quit. It’s just, I know I still had stuff left in the tank.”
Wilson was a fierce, high-adrenalin competitor and being a sports agent requires a completely different temperament. It’s been an adjustment.
“I wish I was still (playing),” Wilson said. “I really do. I just don’t have anything that excites me like getting that call and running out there.”
He hasn’t ruled out returning to the game in some other capacity, like coaching. He’s thought a lot about coaching at the college level, but it would require starting at the lower rungs and uprooting his family again. He’s thought about coaching in pro ball, too, but that too would require moving his family around again.
“I never rule anything out, right, but I am happy with what I’m doing and happy with the group of people I am with,” he said.
Wilson isn’t looking to be the next mega-agent. He’s not looking to be like a character in the HBO series Ballers. He is looking to build a smaller stable of quality players, quality human beings and be able to provide full attention and care to each and every one.
“My thing is, 90% of guys end up switching agents,” he said. “All right, I go see all my pro ball guys and I see what happens with their teammates that end up being pretty good. I have a good relationship with them because I’m actually taking care of my guys.
“I’m not a guy who wants to have 55 guys. I want like the right 12. I don’t want a laundry list.”
He wants what he had with his longtime agent Tom Little, who over the years became part of Wilson’s extended family. To the point where his kids call him “Pop-pop Tom.”
“I’m more old-school that way,” Wilson said. “For the players who value that, I will get them. For the guys who don’t value that, they will go elsewhere. It’d be nice to get a guy like Tarik Skubal (laughs), but the younger guys I have coming up through the system now are really good and I’m excited for them.
“It just takes time.”