[ HIGH SCHOOL REPORT ]
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Saint Louis senior first baseman Chester Wilson went an astonishing 11-for-11 at the plate during the Richard Kitamura preseason baseball tournament at MPI.
of a hitter
Chester Wilson has all the tools
to become the most feared baseball
player to come out of Saint Louis
For the past two seasons, Saint Louis' Chester Wilson has wielded one of the most feared bats in Hawaii high school baseball.
Standing 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, the right-handed swinging senior first baseman has terrorized Interscholastic League of Honolulu pitching. Wilson led the circuit with a .614 batting average last season to earn first-team all-league and third-team All-State honors.
This year, Wilson has improved the product, adding a new-found power stroke to his arsenal after recording two homers as a junior. This preseason, the three-year varsity starter went 11-for-11 for the Crusaders during the Richard Kitamura Tournament hosted by Mid-Pacific, ripping three homers in the first two days of the tourney.
Wilson slugged five home runs in Saint Louis' first five preseason games this year and has kept his hot bat going for the ILH season. He is batting .667 (8-for-12) through the first four games of league play.
Ask a number of scouts and coaches around the state and they will give you a number of reasons for Wilson's success: his keen batting eye, outstanding hand-eye coordination, balance, natural strength, bat speed, maturity and work ethic. All are reasons why Wilson is perhaps the best natural hitter in the state.
The eyes have it
Wilson is the latest in a long line of recent Crusader baseball standouts. Major Leaguers Benny Agbayani and Brandon League, Kansas City Royals farmhand Chad Santos, former Chicago Cubs minor leaguer Jandin Thorton-Murray, former Hawaii Pacific All-American Kevin Fujioka and former Washington State All-Pac 10 infielder Nohili Naumu have worn a Saint Louis uniform.
"In my 15 years of involvement with the Saint Louis program, I'd have to say that at this stage, Chester may be the best I've seen," said Crusaders coach Scot Paiva, a 1989 alumnus. "With all of the great hitters who have come through this school -- like Jerry Ferreira and Benny and Nohili -- I don't think that anyone matches up to him and his ability to just hit the ball. Many of the greats we've had here were very good hitters and they hit .300 to .400. But Chester hit over .600 last year. A legitimate .600.
"The one thing that always struck me about Chester is his ability to see the ball in the last few feet it travels," Paiva said. "At the plate and at first base, there seems to be something he sees in the last foot that others don't, and his hand-eye coordination is something else. The boy is just phenomenal."
Phenomenal may indeed apply to a hitter who struck out just three times all of his junior year, which included more than 60 regular-season plate appearances.
"He just doesn't swing at bad pitches," Paiva said. "No matter if they're trying to pitch around him, he will not expand his strike zone and swing at a bad pitch."
Crusader hitting coach Derrick Fujioka, a Saint Louis alum who went on to play at UH Hilo, speaks of Wilson in superlatives.
"His balance at the plate is amazing," Fujioka said. "You won't ever see him out on his front foot. His swings looks exactly the same all the time. In some situations, he'll give himself up for the RBI and try to lift a fly ball to the outfield to score the run. But even then, he's balanced, and has the same exact swing and he hits everything hard."
Before starring for the diamond Crusaders each season, Wilson dons the helmet and shoulder pads for Saint Louis' football squad. The two-year starter at middle linebacker has earned all-league honors on the football field as well for one of the state's most respected programs.
But despite his ability to lay the hat during the fall and swing the bat during the spring, perhaps Wilson's best is yet to come.
"He's like a lot of kids his age," Fujioka said. "He isn't exactly a muscular guy, but he has a lot of strength."
"Chester has a lot of natural ability and strength," said the 2004 ILH Co-Coach of the Year. "A lot of people might look at his size as a detriment, but he fits his body pretty well, with his coordination. But what they don't realize is that he doesn't really lift weights yet. He's gonna get better."
Professional scouts here note Wilson's bat speed, which enables him to drive pitches to all parts of the field.
"I think he's got pretty good bat speed, and that's the kind of stuff that pro guys look for, because you can't teach it," former University of Hawaii shortstop Eric Tokunaga said. "It allows him to use the whole field and that's what's interesting about him."
Oakland Athletics scout Garett Yukumoto agrees.
"Chester went up to Arizona in the fall for the showcase (the Arizona Senior Fall Classic in Peoria)," Yukumoto said. "With his bat speed, he showed that he can swing the wood, and still have the same type of power to the alleys."
But perhaps the word used most often in describing Wilson is maturity: as a hitter, a person and a leader.
"Chester works hard in the offseason and he can flat-out hit," Yukumoto said. "But what makes him good is that he can make adjustments within an at-bat. Good hitters at this level adjust between at-bats, but he can from pitch to pitch and hit the ball hard within the at-bat."
In a preseason win over Riverdale Baptist (Md.), Wilson showed maturity at the plate, taking four outside off-speed pitches to right for base hits before drilling an inside pitch over the left-field fence at Central Oahu Regional Park for a homer in the seventh inning.
"He is one of the toughest outs around because he'll take whatever the pitcher gives him," Tokunaga said. "He'll take a base hit to right, but he can also pull the ball with authority this year."
Despite strong showings last season and in Arizona, Wilson seems to be somewhat of an anomaly, drawing more interest from professional scouts than college recruiters, despite a well-rounded resume. Southern Utah has been the only Division I school to come calling so far.
"How he can do so well and not get more interest from colleges is amazing," Paiva said. "The kid is a strong student (3.6 grade-point average), he's a co-captain in baseball and football and has been his class president every year since he was in the eighth grade. But to his credit, he doesn't dwell on it. He is extremely humble and has the work ethic and dedication. He's just a super kid."
Whether spending late nights hitting after practice with Fujioka, or having individual sessions with a famous Saint Louis alum, Wilson is always working.
"Hitting with Benny has been a great experience," Wilson said of his time with Benny Agbayani. "My dad ran into him at a store in Waianae last summer and went up and asked him if he gave lessons. Benny told him not really, but he told my dad he'd call me that night, and he did. We worked on my swing and swing mechanics and basically he teaches me how to hit the ball hard. He's an awesome guy."
Fujioka thinks Wilson is pretty amazing in his own right.
"I can't say enough about the guy," Fujioka said.
"I just hope to see good things happen for him. He's soft-spoken, a team player, talented, and he's a worker, he always stays late after practice. He's what every coach wants in a player."
Wilson looks to continue his career, but is more immediately concerned with the Crusaders' play.
"I hope to go to college and keep playing ball and pursue that as long as I can," Wilson said.
"But right now, I just want us to keep playing the way we have, with heart and determination. As a team."