Page 2 of 3   <       >

Nationals prospect Josh Wilkie right at home in Washington

"Josh is now sort of a type in our department," Boyce said. "I think we would have been not as good a music department if we hadn't encouraged him. I think we're a better department having Josh in it. Even though when he arrived, he didn't look like the kind of student who would make us a better department. He might contribute in a variety of ways but might not be a star performer. He can be easily overlooked.

"There were better guitar players, better piano players, but that's not all that a department is; that's not all that a community is. He reminds me of those things."

But of course, even in the music lab, baseball was never far away.

"There was one instance where he did call me 'Coach,' " Boyce admits.

Playing for his other coaches, Tom Walters and Steve Mrowka, Wilkie put together a 25-12 record with a 2.97 ERA in leading GW to a 144-79 record during his four years. His wins are third on the school's career list and his 291 strikeouts rank second.

Wilkie and Mrowka, who took over at GW before Wilkie's junior season, remain close. In the offseason Wilkie lives near 26th and Pennsylvania Avenue and works out with the GW team, as former Nationals pitcher Mike O'Connor, another GW product, used to do. Wilkie gets a good workout without having to pay gym fees; Mrowka gets a mentor and example to set before his current players.

"He's obviously a role model, and he's in a position most of the players want to be in," Mrowka said. "Some of the guys knew him from when he was here, they follow his career, they want to be pro ballplayers, they see how hard he works, the way he approaches things. I'm hoping that's something they will want to do."

'The stronger prevail'

Wilkie would blend in on the Metro. At 6 feet 2 and 190 pounds, he's not physically imposing. He's soft-spoken, shy until you hit upon a topic of interest. He has plugged away steadily in the minors, mostly in middle relief, compiling a 13-15 record with a 3.04 ERA and 23 saves. In his short stint at Syracuse, he had 25 strikeouts and just four walks in 22 1/3 innings.

Rather than becoming frustrated during four seasons in the Gulf Coast League and Hagerstown and Potomac and Harrisburg, he finds encouragement in the fact that he's still with the Nationals.

In Arizona, he has played alongside No. 1 draft pick Stephen Strasburg, who signed a $15 million deal, and No. 10 pick Drew Storen, who got a $1.6 million signing bonus. Wilkie knows that neither will ever have to scramble for work in the offseason just to pay the bills until spring training rolls around again.

"You're trying to find a job [in the offseason] unless you've got a lot of money," he said. "But not that many people have enough money to sustain themselves in the offseason. So you've got to find a job, but who's going to hire you for four months?

"It's not easy and maybe they do that on purpose -- you know, who wants it more? I guess maybe the stronger prevail."

<       2        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company