By Chris Yow
Just a few short weeks ago, former Summit baseball star Wil Dalton was having the time of his life preparing for the 2020 baseball season during spring training. Now, the newest member of the Boston Red Sox organization says nearby hunting land and his truck are reaping the benefits of an extended offseason due to COVID-19.
“Finding that I’ve had time to just take a step away and relax for a little while has been really good for me,” he said. “I’ve gotten a chance to do some things I didn’t really have as much time to do before. I still think about baseball every day, though.”
Stepping away from his truck momentarily, the dusty exterior tells the story of where he’s been spending the extra time – the woods. On Thursday, however, he and a buddy detailed the interior and prepped it for a good cleaning.
“I’ve been turkey hunting and fishing a lot, so it got a little dirty,” he said. “We’re going to clean it up for the weekend while the sun is out next week. This time of year, I’m normally pretty busy, and I don’t get to enjoy the outdoors as much, so this has been kind of cool.”
Getting the chance to spend extra time with his family and friends has been a blessing, he said. The added benefit being a chance to continue to grow as a person who is preparing for his first job out of college — even if that job is playing baseball.
“I have this unique chance to evaluate myself immediately after my first month on the job,” he said. “What did I learn about myself, about my body? What could I have done better or how do I build on my strengths and correct the weaknesses in both my game and my life?
“This has been an opportunity to simplify things in life and see them as they should be, and not take for granted the things we think will just always be there. One day they may not be.”
Dalton, who was an All-Conference player in his freshman season at Columbia State, hit 27 home runs and added 94 RBIs over two seasons with the Florida Gators before being selected in the eighth round of the MLB draft by the Red Sox. He was invited to early workouts and to spend time with the organization during spring training this season before being slated to play for the Single-A Greenville Drive. That experience was special for him as a newly drafted player.
“I was invited to mini camp, so I’d been with the team for about three weeks, and we were just starting playing some intrasquad games,” he said. “The next week our first games were supposed to be played, but everything was canceled.”
The Red Sox organization was up front about the situation with their players, Dalton said, something for which he remains grateful. The team’s medical staff and front office was in frequent contact with its players and coaches to keep them abreast of the latest developments.
“The Red Sox organization has been great through all of this, and I couldn’t be more proud to be part of it,” he said. “They were there every step of the way to make sure we stayed safe and were prepared. We all hoped, obviously, that our season wouldn’t be put on hold, but when it was they helped us do it the best way possible.”
Just after his season was canceled, Summit head coach Chad Kirby noted how much more weight the phrase, “Play every game as if it’s your last,” will now carry. Dalton recalled that being a staple of Kirby’s message throughout his career as well.
“He’s always said that to his players, and he and the other coaches really stressed not taking a pitch, an out or a swing for granted,” he said. “I get to play a kid’s game for a living, and I get to see so many cool things along the way. I get to do what I love every single day.”
Dalton admits that not all of his time is spent relaxing or outdoors. In fact, he said being forced away from the game makes him that much more excited to get out and work on his swing or do the fundamental things to keep his skills sharp.
“This has made me miss baseball more than I ever have. It’s what I love to wake up and do every day,” he said. “I pray and hope every day the boys of summer can get back out there and have a good year, and enjoy every minute of it.
“I know my teammates are ready to get back out there and do our thing.”