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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Wilson to catch one inning Friday, then retire

Kirby Arnold Everett Herald

SEATTLE – To Paul Blanchard, Stan Wilson, Edgar Martinez, Toby Wilson, Jay Buhner, Matt Wilson, all the current and past Seattle Mariners, Seattle baseball fans and, above all, God above, Dan Wilson gives his thanks.

Wilson will return to the field Friday after rehabbing a knee injury and start the Mariners’ game against the Oakland A’s, catching one inning before he retires.

Then he will thank those who helped get him to the major leagues in what became a 14-year career, the past 12 with the Mariners.

There are so many to thank.

Before Wilson displayed the quiet, but intense competitiveness as a major leaguer, he learned from his family what it means never to give up.

Toby and Matt Wilson, his two older brothers, played baseball in the summer, football in the fall and ice hockey in the winter, while growing up near Chicago. Their little brother, Dan, always pushed himself to keep up with them.

“It’s a product of my family,” he said. “I was always trying to strive for more, always wanting to keep up with them. It’s something that is still there in me.”

Before Wilson mastered the art of blocking balls in the dirt and steering a pitcher through the minefield of an American League lineup, there was Paul Blanchard.

“I started catching at a very young age, five or seven years old, but he was the person who had the most influence on me as a catcher,” Wilson said.

Blanchard, whose father, John Blanchard, played for the Yankees, coached at the University of Minnesota where Wilson became an All-American in 1990. The Cincinnati Reds drafted him that year, and Wilson credits the lessons he learned from Blanchard with his smooth transition to the pro level.

“Paul knows how to teach catching and I learned a lot about it there,” Wilson said.

Before Wilson became known for the precision of his preparation – for an at-bat, a game, a season – he learned how in his own household.

Stan Wilson, his father, worked 30 years for the same grocery company and, in Dan’s eyes, never left for work without being prepared for the day.

“My dad was a very conscientious, hard-working, responsible person,” Wilson said. “You don’t realize it at the time as a child, but there comes a time when you look back and say, ‘That’s where I got that from.’ “

Mike Hargrove, who spent most of his career as Wilson’s opponent before becoming the Mariners’ manager this year, has long been impressed with his preparation.

“He was terribly prepared physically and mentally to do his job,” Hargrove said. “When he caught, you knew that whatever the pitcher had that day, he would get it out of him. That wasn’t always a comforting thought sitting on the other side.”

Before Wilson built a reputation for being mentally and physically tough, he established a relationship with God that gives him the strength to face his challenges without fear.

“It’s a desire to want to do my job every day and do it well,” he said. “I think it is probably faith-driven.”

Before he became a leader in the Mariners’ a clubhouse, Wilson learned from a couple of the club’s all-time best, Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez, why teams need veteran leadership.

“I don’t even know if I’m a leader,” Wilson said. “But if I am, it would have to come from observing some of the better players in the big leagues, how they carried themselves in the clubhouse and the things they did on the field.

“Here, Jay was a person who was a big leader in the clubhouse, more of a vocal leader. Edgar was more quiet, a leader by example.”

Wilson will retire as a baseball player this weekend when the Mariners end their season.

When he catches his final inning Friday, it will become almost a metaphor for his career. To get there, he will have pushed himself back from knee surgery in May that appeared to have ended his career.

He’s coming back Friday to say a proper good-bye to the game, the team and the fans, who have treated him so well.

He made the All-Star team in 1996 and batted a career-best .295 in 2000.

He’s proud of the 1995 team that won the franchise’s first division championship and solidified the future of baseball in Seattle when there was a chance the city might lose the team. He loves Safeco Field, the product of what that team helped achieve.

He cherishes the memory of the Mariners’ 116-victory season in 2001, especially the night the Mariners clinched the division title and paraded around the ballpark with an American Flag shortly after the 9-11 attacks.

“Just stepping on the field at Safeco Field is somewhat of an accomplishment, to have this beautiful stadium,” Wilson said. “To see how things have changed baseball-wise in Seattle over the last 12 years, it’s pretty amazing.”

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