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Brian Wilson

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Brian Patrick Wilson (born March 16, 1982) is an American professional baseball relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball. Statistically, Wilson has become one of baseball's best pitchers in a closer role, and is known for his repertoire that consists of a four-seam fastball, cutter, slider and a two-seam sinking fastball.[1] More recently, Wilson has drawn fan and media attention for his thick, black beard and eccentric behavior

Brian Patrick Wilson was born and raised in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Today, he talks little of his childhood except to discuss his father. Mike Wilson, an Air Force veteran, was a demanding perfectionist, but Brian said in a 2011 interview, "I think that's how you need to be raised. It's not your friend, it's your dad. And he's going to be strict. And one day you're going to understand why. And sometimes, it's a little too late. They might pass away, and you might not get that chance to say thanks or understand why you did those things. But when you become a man, you understand why."[1]

When Brian was 12 years old, his father was diagnosed with cancer. His father fought the disease for five years before dying when Wilson was attending Londonderry High School; Wilson today says he had to become a man when his father was diagnosed. In a 2011 story, ESPN.com writer Elizabeth Merrill said about Wilson's high school years, "He was an honor roll student at Londonderry, but clashed with various authority figures who didn't appreciate his occasional lack of a filter." In the same story, a number of Londonderry faculty speculated that some teachers didn't understand Wilson's life situation at the time. Art Psaledas, an assistant principal at the school, would add, "It happened at probably the worst time anybody could lose your dad. Watching his dad deteriorate over the years was probably the singular thing that formed his personality."[1]

Whatever stress he was experiencing at home in Londonderry apparently did not show up on the baseball field. Bob Napolitano, who was Wilson's coach at Londonderry High, was struck by his extreme focus on the game. Napolitano specifically remembered the first home game of Wilson's senior year, which happened shortly after his father's death. No fewer than 29 professional scouts, all with radar guns, showed up to watch him pitch. According to Napolitano, Wilson was completely oblivious to their appearance; he ate and drank in the dugout, warmed up, and pitched a two-hitter while apparently not noticing that scouts were there.[1] The Cleveland Indians offered him a contract straight out of high school but he did not sign, opting for college instead.[2]

After a coach happened to see him pitch in a tournament in California, Wilson was given a scholarship to Louisiana State University where he played for the LSU Tigers baseball team, eventually becoming their #2 starter.[3] In his time at LSU, Wilson pitched in 51 games (22 as a starter) and accumulated 18 wins, 10 losses and 5 saves. He was in the middle of his third season on March 28, 2003 when he injured his elbow and required Tommy John surgery.[3][4] He also played for the Keene Swamp Bats of the New England Collegiate Baseball League. Wilson's college career ended when he accepted a contract with the San Francisco Giants that August, even though he faced extensive rehabilitation

Wilson, coming off his surgery, was drafted by the Giants in the 24th round of the 2003 Major League Baseball Draft. Initially signed as a starter, he struggled in Class-A and converted himself into a relief pitcher.[6][7] In 2005 he began garnering attention as a closer in the minors, playing for the Augusta GreenJackets.[8] By 2006 he was playing for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies before getting called up to the majors.[9]

[edit] 2006-2007Wilson made his major league debut on April 23, 2006 in relief, as he pitched two innings, surrendering two hits and no runs while striking out three batters.[10][11] He later revealed that he hurt himself during the first inning but didn't tell anyone and continued pitching through the second. Afterward he was placed on the disabled list for a month.[12] He finished the season with 31 games and an ERA of 5.40.[13]

Wilson was the closer in spring training 2007, but his 7.71 ERA caused the Giants to send him back to the minors.[14] After spending much of the 2007 season in AAA Fresno, Wilson was called up in August and was immediately used as the Giants' closer again, recording his first save on September 17.[15] He went on to pitch in 24 games with a 2.28 ERA and recorded 6 saves.[13]

[edit] 2008-2009Wilson converted six of his first seven save opportunities and became the Giants' full-time closer in 2008. He later recorded 24 consecutive saves between May 2, 2008 and August 20, 2008.[16] On July 6, 2008, Wilson was named to the All-Star team for the first time and gave up no hits and struck out one in 2/3 innings. He ended the season with 41 saves in 47 attempts and an ERA of 4.62.

In 2009, Wilson's pitching continued to improve and he started making frequent appearances on television, including his own locally produced, self-filmed reality show, Life of Brian.[17][18] He began using Twitter but then closed his account after being criticized for posting a late-night message before blowing a save the next afternoon.[19] Ultimately Wilson pitched 38 saves in 45 chances and improved his ERA to 2.74.[13][20]

[edit] 2010See also: 2010 San Francisco Giants season

On March 25, 2010, he agreed to a contract extension with the Giants.[21] From the beginning his pitching continued to be strong, recording 22 saves in 24 chances.[22] As a result, Wilson was awarded another MLB All-Star nod for the 2010 game in Anaheim.

Wilson continued to enjoy increased media attention, particularly through numerous appearances on The Cheap Seats. In August, Wilson started to grow his beard out along with reliever Sergio Romo. He decided he would not shave until the Giants' season was over. As it grew more pronounced and oddly dark, Wilson's beard became a focal point for Giants fans, many who would wear fake beards to games and hold up signs saying "Fear the Beard".[23][24][25][26]

The Giants fared well all season, generally trailing only the San Diego Padres in the NL West. By October, the Giants pulled even, leading to a decisive game against the Padres on October 3, the last scheduled game of the regular season. The Giants ultimately prevailed with Wilson closing, tying the Giants' single season save record of 48 held by former Giants closer Rod Beck and giving Wilson the most saves in the major leagues for the 2010 season. The victory sent the Giants to the playoffs.

The Giants went on to defeat the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS in 4 games with Wilson earning saves in games 3 and 4. In the NLCS, the Giants beat the heavily favored Phillies in 6 games with Wilson pitching in all 4 winning games, earning 3 saves and 1 win.

The Giants faced the Texas Rangers in the World Series, defeating them in 5 games with Wilson throwing the final pitch in Rangers Ballpark, bringing a World Series victory to San Francisco for the first time since the Giants moved to the city in 1958. A photo of Wilson celebrating with teammate Buster Posey appeared on the next cover of Sports Illustrated.[27]

Wilson continued to be the Giants' most visible face in the aftermath of the title, speaking at the victory parade that followed and appearing with the World Series Trophy on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.[28][29]

[edit] 2011Before the 2011 season began Wilson was back in the spotlight at the Giants' Fanfest, through his re-activated Twitter account, and during the team's Opening Day ceremonies. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "Wilson is now the face (and beard) of the team."[30] He also appeared in local and national television commercials.[31][32][33]

Toward the end of the Giants' Spring Training, Wilson strained an oblique muscle, forcing him to rest.[34] He spent the first 6 games on the DL, and the lost practice caused Wilson to struggle during his early appearances in the season. Though he struggled in his first few appearances, he has 28 saves as of July 18th. [35]

Wilson was elected to his third All-Star Game, and National League manager Bruce Bochy selected Wilson to serve as the closer for the National League

Wilson is considered a power pitcher. He has a repertoire of three pitches. He throws a four-seam fastball regularly within a velocity range of 95–98 mph, occasionally touching 100 mph. He also has a slider and cut fastball. His slider has sharp, late break down and away from the right handed hitter thrown in the high 80s. His cut fastball is thrown in the low 90s with much of the same movement as his slider, but with a more slight break. Wilson is considered a fearless pitcher who consistently throws to the inside part of the plate. He has strong command with the fastball, and complements it with his slider, often employing it as an off-speed pitch. He is also a corner-location pitcher, throwing the great majority of his pitches to both inside corners as well as the outside corner. In the 2010 season, his cut fastball, or cutter, became a major strike out pitch, as Wilson is able to accurately place it for a strike on any pitch count. In 2011 he started throwing a two-seam fastball as well. The two-seamer starts away on a right handed hitter (or in to a left handed hitter) and has dramatic inward (or outward) movement over the plate.

Wilson is noted for having a peculiar personality.[38] In the 2010 MLB All Star Game he debuted a pair of bright orange spikes and continued to wear them throughout the season, coloring half of them black with an indelible marker after being fined $1,000 by National League for non-conforming shoes.[39] Wilson claimed he was punished for "having too much awesome on [his] feet." In an interview with Jim Rome on September 3, he claimed to be a "certified ninja" which he learned in a dream.[40]

Wilson has a mohawk hairstyle and while on a road trip at the beginning of August 2010 grew a thick beard, which he began dying black at the start of September, never admitting to dying it, but saying he was in the sun a lot, and it got a tan.[41][42] During the Giants' playoff run, fans adopted the battle cry "Fear the Beard."[43]

He has a number of tattoos. He had a dragon on his left shoulder done to honor his father.[44] He also has the words "In nomine patris" ("In the name of the father") across his chest in addition to a Celtic cross with lettering on his right wrist that he got while on a trip to Ireland with Dallas Braden.[45][46][47]

In 2011 he appeared in a commercial for the video game Major League Baseball 2K11 in which he talks about his beard and is also interrupted by "digital Brian."[32] He also was featured in Major League Baseball's "Always Epic" campaign and a commecial for ESPN SportsCenter.[31][48]

Wilson became a born again Christian at the age of 23. He adopted a gesture of crossing his arms, with his left hand in his glove and his right hand underneath pointing with the index finger while looking at the sky, which both honors The Holy Trinity as well as his late father who died of cancer when Wilson was 17. He performs it when he records a save or closes out a game.[49][50]

On May 30, 2011 (Memorial Day), Wilson announced that in memory of his father, an Air Force veteran, he would endow two scholarships for LSU Air Force ROTC cadets. The scholarship will be a need based scholarship available to any college junior or senior.[51]

At the 2011 ESPY Awards, Wilson arrived wearing a spandex tuxedo, drawing attention from Seth Myers during his opening monologue. Myers also made light of Wilson's beard

Wilson has made references to "The Machine," who is a character from the movie 8mm.

The Machine first appeared, ostensibly unknown to Wilson, dressed in full BDSM leather fetish apparel in the background of an interview on Fox Sports's talk show The Cheap Seats hosted by Chris Rose. The interview was conducted on August 31, 2010 via webcam from Wilson's home. Wilson explained that The Machine was his neighbor who "doesn't say much" and "comes over for sugar."[54] A commercial parodying this interview was later made by CSN Bay Area.[55][56]

On September 3, The Machine appeared to call Wilson during his interview with Jim Rome, informing Wilson that he had left a leather mask in Wilson's back pocket, which Wilson then pulled out to show to Rome.[57] Wilson's phone was a 1980s-era Motorola DynaTAC, which would later appear in his SportsCenter and MLB 2K11 commercials.[58][59]

Wilson's next mention of The Machine came on October 23. In a locker room interview after the Giants had won the NLCS, Chris Rose asked him to respond to a tweet by Texas starter C.J. Wilson. The Giants closer replied, "I think The Machine will say all he needs to say when he makes an appearance again."[60]

In his short speech at the November 3, 2010 World Series victory parade, Wilson said that Mayor Gavin Newsom had suggested he run for office given the closer's immense popularity. Wilson said, "I don't think I'm up for that job. But I also have three words because I know a man who is. Where's The Machine?"[61][62] Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had earlier made a reference to The Machine during his speech.[63]

The next night during Wilson's Tonight Show appearance, Jay Leno played several Machine videos. Prompted by a clip of Chris Rose saying, "We don't need to take The Machine on national TV," Wilson looked at Leno and said, "Or do we?" At that point The Machine walked on stage and stood menacingly behind Wilson and Leno.[6]

Wilson appeared on Lopez Tonight on January 27, 2011. He was dressed as a "Sailor", dyeing his signature beard grey. Partway through the interview, Wilson pulled out an action figure of The Machine from his shirt pocket. The toy had been given to him by an ESPN staff member during the making of his "Fear the Beard" SportsCenter commercial.[64][65]

There is evidence that Pat Burrell provided the costume and dressed as The Machine in the original Cheap Seats appearance, although the Tonight Show Machine appeared to have a different physique.[66][67][68][69] While he was on the Phillies, t-shirts were once distributed around the clubhouse featuring a picture of a shirtless Burrell and the caption "Man or Machine?"

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