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Dan Wilson.

Retired Seattle Mariners catcher Dan Wilson is working to complete his degree at the University of Minnesota after a stellar 16-year career in pro baseball.

Major league student

UMAA member profile: Dan Wilson

By Scott Holter

From M, fall 2006

Like the Space Needle and a double latte, he became a fixture in Seattle as a catcher with the Seattle Mariners. But after more than a decade in the Emerald City, Dan Wilson has retired from baseball. He's traded his shin guards and mask for treasured summers in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and four children. The 37-year-old also has picked up where he left off as a University of Minnesota student. He is working to complete the undergraduate degree that he set aside 16 years ago for a career in the pros. "My biggest motivation to return to school is simply to finish my degree at Minnesota, which I once chose to study engineering and play in a top-notch Division I baseball program," says Wilson, who was co-captain and first-team All-American with the Gophers in 1990. "It was a great place for my college years, and there's a long list of players--[Paul] Molitor, [Dave] Winfield, [Terry] Steinbach--who have made it to the big leagues. But I had to suspend my studies for baseball, and I want to go back and finish." Wilson, a UMAA life member, is enrolled in applied business correspondence courses that he completes almost entirely online. "I'm probably a bit past my prime to continue with engineering," he says, "but I wanted to study business because it seems the most useful at this point in my life and career. My hope is to use that degree and, with the help of my wife, start a nonprofit with the goal of helping youth in our community." It's a long way from a Major League Baseball clubhouse to pop quizzes and term papers. Wilson struggled to find his study groove again, but his baseball instincts led the way. "As a catcher I had to know my pitchers and the opposing hitters, which takes a lot of studying, much like a student needs to do to be successful," he says. "I've found it's been tough to discipline myself to get on a regular schedule with schoolwork. But I welcome the challenge."

"[Head baseball coach] John Anderson and [assistant coach] Rob Fornasiere always stressed being a student first and an athlete second," Wilson says. "Now with my playing days over, I want to show them they were right. And, I want to do that at the institution that gave me the opportunity to do both from the start."

Though his playing days are behind him, Wilson remains a vital contributor to the Seattle community, where his charity work over the past decade has been applauded. In 2005 he was among the finalists for Major League Baseball's Roberto Clemente Award, which acknowledges a player's community service. Wilson and his wife, Annie (Palmer) (B.S. '91), are long-time supporters of First Place School, a Seattle organization that educates and supports homeless children. Many more children are receiving assistance thanks to a $100,000 gift from the Mariners at Wilson's retirement party last September. More than 30,000 people attended the pre-game festivities at Safeco Field, including former teammates and local dignitaries. The Wilsons are using the money for an endowment they have started at Seattle's Children's Hospital. Wilson also serves on the board of All God's Children, an international adoption and relief agency which he and Annie used to adopt two of their four children: Sofia, 12 (from Bulgaria), and Abraham, 5 (from Guatemala). Two biological children, Josephine, 10, and Elijah, 8, round out the Wilson lineup, which just spent its first summer with Dan at home. Wilson relishes his new life going to swim meets, coaching Little League, and hitting the books late into the evening--always with the voices of his old Gophers coaches ringing in his head. "[Head baseball coach] John Anderson (B.S. '77) and [assistant coach] Rob Fornasiere always stressed being a student first and an athlete second," Wilson says. "Now with my playing days over, I want to show them they were right. And, I want to do that at the institution that gave me the opportunity to do both from the start."