It took him 10 years to achieve, but when Mike Wilson makes his first major league start tonight for the Seattle Mariners, he not only makes them a better team, his presence makes them a better franchise.
He may not be the answer in left field, but how many others were given the job ahead of him that have now receded from memory?
Wilson wasn't a bonus baby and hasn't had a string of pop-your-eyes-out seasons. Instead, he's a big man with power who kept working no matter how many times the Mariners overlooked him. Three times he became a minor league free agent, and each time he returned to the Seattle system.
In his first big-league game Tuesday, he threw out a runner at home plate and singled home the go-ahead run in the 13th inning. That put him well ahead of a third of the men to play left field for Seattle in the past 10 years.
Wilson may not be the answer to the Mariners search for power, and at 27, he's hardly a prospect. What he is, however, is a man who's put together solid credentials without ever getting a September call up. Wilson set the team record for spring training home runs - only to be cut on the final day of camp.
For a team going nowhere, veterans like Jack Cust, Jack Wilson and Miguel Olivo won't help this team develop in the future. Wilson may not either, but rewarding him after 10 years of service and effort sent a message through the entire minor league system.
Work hard, keep pushing, have patience, we know you're there. Giving Wilson his shot will likely encourage every player in the organization.
And he might help the Mariners win games.