Excited shouts and awe-struck faces filled the halls of West Hollow Middle School Friday, May 18 during a
“Moooo-kie!” eager voices called out as Wilson gave high fives, autographs and even a brief history lesson on ancient Roman government to the students.
Wilson played for the New York Mets for 12 years and is well-remembered for his hit during Game Six of the 1986 World Series, in which he hit a ground ball through the legs of Bill Buckner, allowing Met Ray Knight to score from second base and win the game.
In his career, Wilson totaled 67 home runs, 438 RBI’s and 327 stolen bases in 1403 games. He also held the Mets record for career-stolen bases (281) and career triples (62) until Jose Reyes broke both marks during the 2008 season.
While he admittedly was not the best student during his own middle school days in South Carolina, education became one of his most valued achievements later in life, especially since his father only reached the seventh grade. Not only did Wilson go back to college to finish his undergrad degree, but also went on to earn a master’s.
In visiting the classes, Wilson shared stories from his career, and advice about sports and life with the students.
“I wasn’t always the best,” he said about his childhood baseball skills. “I had two older brothers who were both faster and stronger than me. But I don’t think my brothers had the determination that I did.”
Wilson was drafted into the Major Leagues at age 21 after being noticed while playing for his college team. “Always do your best. You never know who’s watching,” he told the students. “I remember I sat down, looked at my locker and said, ‘I made it.’”
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone everyday with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
Wilson also shared his perspective of the infamous 1986 World Series game against the Boston Red Sox.
“When the ball came off the bat, I thought I was out,” he said about the ground ball that rolled through the legs of Bill Buckner. “The thing that went through my head at the time I can’t repeat in here,” he joked.
“What most people don’t know is that Bill Buckner and I were good friends. We’re still the best of friends…He said to me ‘Mookie, don’t feel sorry for me. That’s part of the game.’”
Despite being one of the best players in Mets history, Wilson admitted that he was anxious before every game. “Nerves are a good thing. Nerves make you work harder,” he said.
Wilson recently ended his stint as first base coach for the Mets and is now enjoying retirement. Married for 35 years with three children, he spends time making public appearances and working on his hobbies including carpentry and renovating homes. “I love working with my hands,” he said.
He continues to play sports and has even developed a talent for ping-pong.
In ending his visit, Wilson encouraged the students to follow their passions.
“I grew up on a farm and then went to the biggest city in the world,” he said.