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Still the man

Better known behind the plate than at it, Dan Wilson could hit some, too. - Courtesy of Seattle Mariners
Better known behind the plate than at it, Dan Wilson could hit some, too.
— image credit: Courtesy of Seattle Mariners

Retired Mariner, perennial fan favorite Dan Wilson coming to Bainbridge Island.

If it wasn’t for Little League, baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr., actor Kevin Costner, humorist Dave Barry, musician Bruce Springsteen and President George W. Bush might not be where they’re at right now.

Dan Wilson is another.

“I look fondly back at those days,” the recently retired Seattle Mariners catcher said, of his time spent in the youth baseball league that he credits for making him who he is today.

Wilson’s favorite memory came when he was part of the Barrington, Ill., team that made it to the Little League World Series in 1981 and placed third, defeating teams from California and Canada.

“It’s always fun looking back,” he said. “It was my first time on an airplane and (the whole experience) was just exciting. For a 12-year-old, that’s big stuff.”

Wilson will provide more memories for kids and adults when he visits Bainbridge Island May 6 to participate in “An Evening With Dan Wilson.”

The family auction, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Woodward Middle School, is a fund-raiser for Bainbridge Island Little League.

Tickets are $15 and cover the admission and a dinner of such ballpark staples as hot dogs, chips, soda, ice cream and cookies.

The Woodward gym is being converted to an activity room with baseball-oriented activities, including a pitching cage, a batting cage and a seven-element obstacle course. There will also be a bouncing house and a cake walk.

“It’s very kid friendly,” said Kim Atkins, event chairperson. “It’s low key in attire, and dinner will be more casual, what you would find at the ballpark.”

Atkins said her and the other members wanted to change how they ran the event, which used to be an adults-only auction held at the Kiana Lodge.

Inviting Wilson as a guest wasn’t a hard choice.

“He’s very well known,” Atkins said, “and he’s kid friendly.”

Wilson said he was approached by his friend Mike Sheehan, BILL president, a few months ago to participate.

“I get quite a bit of (requests to appear at charity functions), but I like it,” he said. “I really enjoy helping people out.”

Along with his time, he’ll be contributing one of the items up for bid at the live auction: a catching clinic hosted by Wilson for up to eight kids.

Also included for the live auction are items geared toward sports fans in general, Diamond Club seats for upcoming M’s games and an electric guitar.

The silent auction consists of baskets steered by the parents of the Little League teams. They’ll be made up of various items, such hotel stays and baseball-related activities and equipment.

A raffle also will be held for the baskets.

In return, the BILL is making a donation to Wilson’s charity, First Place Schools.

The Seattle-based organization aids families that are homeless by providing education and meals to children. They also provide parents with social services, including employment counseling and referrals for housing.

While Wilson has been involved with First Place on and off for 11 years in different capacities, his wife Annie has remained active with them since they arrived in Seattle.

“The key is just for me and my wife to give back to the community,” he said. “We want to help these kids who have these tough situations. It’s nice to give them a break for a day and just be able to support and help them.

“It gives them hope. That’s the key.”

While he doesn’t expect the kids to follow in his footsteps, he hopes the lessons learned in Little League and organized sports in general can help some children achieve their goals now and later in life.

“They’re lessons that they can take with them forever,” Wilson said. “That’s ultimately the goal.

“It’s training them for life, not just in baseball, but life outside of baseball.”

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