The second installment of the rather irregular series. My apologies for the long period between the first and second installments: bar study is about as fun as watching painted grass dry while it grows.
Brad Wilkerson played on the Gator baseball team from 1996 to 1998, lending his talents to the team around the diamond as both a hitter and a pitcher. Enough to make Greg Maddux envious, perhaps?
Wilkerson piled up plenty of fond memories while in Gainesville. The one I remember, which I'm sure many other Gators remember as well, was his 1996 grand slam to beat Florida State in a College World Series game. Florida would go on to eliminate FSU two days later. Nothing quite as sweet as ending your rival's season, is there?
After his fantastic 1998 season, Wilkerson took home both the NCBWA and Rotary Smith National Player of the Year awards. During that season, Wilkerson also became the first college baseball player to hit 20 homers, swipe 20 bases, and win 10 games as a pitcher in the same year. In other words, he was a one-man fantasy baseball team.
The Expos drafted him in the first round of the 1998 MLB Draft. During his time in the minors, Wilkerson played on the 2000 U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning baseball team.
His rookie year brought success, with a second-place finish in the 2002 NL Rookie of the Year vote (you'll notice fellow Gator Josh Fogg finished seventh in that same vote). Brad won the 2002 Sporting News NL Rookie of the Year award.
Over the span of his career, he would go on to play for the Expos/Nationals, Red Sox, Rangers, Mariners, and Blue Jays. He retired in 2009 after a brief minor-league stint with the Red Sox, and with 122 career home runs and 399 RBI. A minor league comeback with the Phillies followed in 2010, but Wilkerson didn't get past spring training.
His career highlight may have been twice hitting for the cycle, including hitting for the first natural cycle (single, double, triple, homer, in order) since 1957. Wilkerson also hit the first grand slam by a Washington National.
Hats off to another former Gator!