Saturday, August 2, 2008

Squad glad Stilson still rubs shoulders with them

Squad glad Stilson still rubs shoulders with them

LEAGUE CITY, Texas—Jake Rogers had just hit a home run, and John Stilson joined his Red River Credit Union Indians teammates for a celebration at home plate.

That was Stilson’s only public appearance Wednesday at Clear Creek High School’s Wildcat Field during the Tribe’s opening-day win over Houston Milby in the 83rd annual Texas American Legion Baseball tournament. The former Texas High standout will see no more action this summer after having season-ending shoulder surgery last month.

A leader on and off the field during tournament games in June, Stilson continues to be a motivational factor from the bench for the Indians during their bid to reach the Mid-South Regional and American Legion World Series.

“It has really been tough sitting and watching for the past month,” said Stilson, voted MVP and Outstanding Pitcher at the Nashville and Mountain Home tournaments earlier this summer. “I could have continued playing this summer, but my shoulder was getting worse. Doctors tell me I could be back in four to six months as good as new.”

That’s when Stilson hopes to land playing time for his new team, the Texarkana College Bulldogs.

Stilson injured his shoulder during football practice last fall. He was playing defense and making a tackle when it popped out of place. The injury slowed him the remainder of the football season and continued to plague him when he played basketball and baseball for the Tigers.

Stilson’s presence at the Legion tournament has helped Texarkana manager Tom Wacha’s confidence this week, and has him looking ahead to next summer.

“John is quite a kid,” Wacha said. “I didn’t know him well before this summer, and getting acquainted this season has been very rewarding. Every team needs a leader, and when you’ve got a lot of good players that’s hard to figure out. It was apparent from the very start that John was the leader of this team. He’s everything you look for in a player and a person.”

Stilson is eligible to play for the Indians next summer, and the same can be said for several other current Indians. David Allday, D.D. Bigham, Duncan Collins, Randall Fant, Keegan Haas, Kendrick Henderson, Cody Mayo, Jon Phillips and Michael Wacha are all expected back for the 2009 season.

“We have a good team this year and we could be even stronger next season,” Wacha said.

Should the Indians reach Saturday’s championship game, the Indians’ pitching-depth could be a factor. No doubt Wacha wishes he had Stilson to throw that game.

“We don’t have to get to Saturday or Sunday to say we wish we had John Stilson,” Wacha said.