ST. MARYS, W.Va.— Blue Devils’ baseball coach Ed Wilson is not one to spend a lot of time talking about himself or his own accomplishments. He’d much rather discuss his team and its success.
So it really was not a surprise that Wilson did not make a big deal of his 400th career victory.
“Well, 400, I don’t know if that is a bunch or not,” Wilson said. “It’s just a drop in the bucket compared to Coach [John] Lowery at Jefferson. There’s Dave Cisar [at Magnolia], he’s been around for a long time.”
Wilson’s resume includes a career winning percentage of .587, four Little Kanawha Valley Conference titles (1990, 1991, 1996 and 2002), eight sectional championships (1990, 1991, 1995, 1996, 2003, 2004, 2011 and 2013), 17 winning seasons and one state tournament appearance.
“We’ve had some games we could’ve won and we had some games we probably should have gotten beat,” he said, chuckling as he reflected on his career.
Wilson got his start as the junior varsity baseball coach at his alma mater in 1985 and became head coach in 1990. That same year he made his only appearance, so far, in the state tournament. During a quarter-century of coaching there is something about each of his teams that stands out to him:
— There was the 1990 team that played in the state tournament at Watt Powell Park.
— In 1995, he recalled the Blue Devils held a 3-0 lead in the seventh inning of the regional final against Wheeling Central, only to see the game slip away.
— His 2002 team won seven games in a row just to qualify for the LKC Tournament, and then beat rivals Williamstown and Ritchie County to win the conference championship. That team won the title despite not getting a single player voted all-conference.
But inside his basement at home, he keeps mementos of every team.
“They all stand out. I’ve got 25 pictures, 25 teams on my walls down here. You just sit back and remember a little bit about all of them.”
Of course the four years coached his son, Rob, at the varsity level were special.
“A lot of coaches are pretty hard on their kids and nephews, you just got to hold back and try to treat them just like the rest of them.”
Wilson would know a thing or two about a dad who voices his opinion. His biggest fan and sometimes critic for much of his career was his father Truman.
Truman Wilson was a fixture at St. Marys baseball games for decades. All four of Ed’s brothers—David, Terry, Dan and Lew, played baseball. The oldest, David, was the head coach and won the school’s only state title in 1981. And Truman was there for nearly every game along the way, giving advice and his opinion, whether it was solicited or not.
“He’d give you what he thought,” Wilson said of his dad. “‘You should have done this and should have done that’ he say but he was always there to support you.”
In fact, the only other person to have seen more St. Marys baseball games over the years than Truman has been Ed’s mom Betty. With the exception of a handful of seasons, one of Truman and Betty’s sons or grandsons has either played or coached baseball for the Blue Devils since 1962. The Wilsons have become as synonymous with St. Marys baseball as the Lowery’s at Jefferson or the Cisar’s at Magnolia.
Prior to the 2013 it appeared as though Wilson may have coached his final baseball game.
Wilson went to the hospital in January 2013 for what was supposed to be a minor procedure. Instead, doctors discovered two blockages near his heart and he underwent double-bypass surgery. Within two months, he was back in the Blue Devils’ dugout.
In January, when another health scare landed him in the hospital again, it appeared his coaching days were finished. But once more his doctors cleared him to return.
Why keep coming back?
“Just the love of the game and wanting to be around the game. I’m retired [from teaching] and it gives me something to do and I enjoy what I’m doing.”
This season, Wilson has had a lot to enjoy. The Blue Devils are 22-1 and recorded five consecutive shutouts following Monday night’s 12-0 win over Paden City.
Now at age 62, Wilson and his wife Karen have three grandchildren, the oldest of which is has started his own baseball career, playing Little League in Lexington, Ky. With his commitments to coaching opportunities are limited to see his grandson carry on a family tradition.
“When I get ready to go it will be a big decision. Anymore it seems like you’ve got conditioning in the winter months and all spring and summer you’re going to baseball games to watch your kids to see how they’re developing.
“I just go year to year and see how my health is.”
When the day finally comes that Wilson decides to retire from coaching it will certainly mark the end of an era.
Just don’t expect that day to come any time soon.