Ten hours before that night's Angels game, C.J. Wilson walked unrecognized through the crowd of racing enthusiasts during the IndyCar practice session at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
He wore the race photographer's light blue vest and a backturned baseball cap. Nothing Angels. He lugged around a top-of-the-line Canon EOS 1D X with a 400mm telephoto lens, set up his monopod beside a retaining wall, aimed and began shooting.
Into his sight sped cars around the Turn 11 hairpin. They hauled down Shoreline Drive, their engines humming hard with horsepower, their decaled bodies passing in blurred colors. The air was a thick brew of burnt rubber and exhaust. The noise, the power rattled every part of him.
On this April morning, the two-time All-Star left-hander was exactly where he wanted to be, here, swept up in speed, force and sensory tide of racing.
But to truly understand what motivates this Rubik's Cube of a ballplayer, you need to know that Wilson is a race-car driver at heart. Read More
ZoomZoomNation launches athlete mentorship program
From the CJ Wilson Mazda Wire
The C.J. Wilson Mazda dealer group has announced the launch of a new mentorship program for young professional athletes. The first athlete to join the program is C.J. Wilson. Of course, the two-time Major League All-Star and auto dealership principal is clearly not mentoring himself. The C.J. in question is Curtis Junior Wilson, the rookie cornerback for the Chicago Bears.
Eric Vates, general manager of the C.J. Wilson Automotive Group, is excited. "C.J. is a rookie cornerback out of North Carolina State," Vates said. "His hometown of Lincolnton, North Carolina, has a population of just over 10,500-so he really is a small town kid in the big city. Basically, we are going to look for good, clean young players and set them on the right path. With 'our' C.J. as a role model, we expect our athletes to be clean living with heavy community involvement. The idea is to start these guys on the right path with the promise of them paying it forward to the next generation and doing the right thing in the community."
Vates believes this is the start of a significant and long-term program in the region. "The signing of young professional athletes helps mold future role models for our young people," he added. "The direction and example that these new athletes receive will be paid forward to future superstars in a continual cycle of development of upstanding young athletic heroes for the children of our city."
Baseball All-Star C.J. Wilson is fully behind the new initiative. "As a professional athlete, it is important to not only represent yourself the best you can-but to know who is counting on your character, on and off the field," Wilson said. "Team sports are great for building bridges, and we hope to promote good character within our own team. Eric and I and are happy to have Curtis on ours!"
For the NFL rookie, his ambitions for this season are pretty straightforward. "My goals for the year are to establish myself in the Bears defensive backfield and to represent C.J. Wilson Mazda and the C.J. Wilson Automotive Group as well as I can," Wilson said.
The Bears player has already displayed explosive pace at the NFL combine earlier this year, setting a time of 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash-though Vates expects him to avoid speeding in the Mazda CX-5 given to him by the Countryside, Ill.-based dealership.