It is with profound sadness to announce the passing of Gary Wilson, the esteemed founder of the Ontario Blue Jays organization. His visionary leadership and dedication to nurturing young talent has made an enduring impact on the broader baseball community.
Wilson held the prestigious position of the organization's inaugural head coach, leading the team from its inception in 1996 until the conclusion of the 1999 season. Before assuming this role, he diligently served as an area scout for the Braves for a span of two years. It was often rumored that he had a background in professional wrestling during his youth, adding an intriguing aspect to his persona. Prior to his coaching tenure with the Ontario Blue Jays, Wilson demonstrated his expertise by guiding the Kitchener Panthers, Hamilton Cardinals, and Toronto Maple Leafs of the Intercounty Baseball League. These experiences further honed his skills and solidified his reputation as a capable mentor in the world of baseball. In recognition of his remarkable contributions, Wilson was granted the esteemed honor of induction into the Ontario Blue Jays Hall of Fame in 2015. This accolade serves as a testament to his outstanding achievements and enduring impact on the organization.
In the summer of 1997, I was a 17-year-old athlete fresh off playing with the GTA Stars when a former coach of mine reached out to Coach Gary Wilson of the Ontario Blue Jays, inquiring about my potential to join the team. As the tale goes, Coach Wilson initially showed no interest, mistaking me for another player we had faced off against in the previous season. However, after some persuasion, he reluctantly agreed to give me a tryout at Connorvale Park.
Arriving at the tryout, I found myself among approximately 50 aspiring players. While the others were stationed in the outfield working on their skills, Coach Wilson took me aside and positioned me at shortstop. For the next half hour, he relentlessly hit ground balls my way, subjecting me to immense pressure and pushing me to my limits to test my endurance and determination. By the end, my arms were covered in cuts and bruises from diving for those balls. Coach Wilson then led me to the third base dugout and offered me the coveted position of shortstop for the upcoming 1998 Ontario Blue Jays season. That summer became one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life, and I remain forever grateful for the opportunity Coach Wilson afforded me. It was through his support that I had the chance to showcase my skills and subsequently received a scholarship to Texarkana College. Throughout the years, Coach Wilson transformed from a mentor to a dear friend.
Coach Wilson's support and guidance were instrumental in shaping my approach to the game. He taught me to play with passion and love, and without his belief in me, I would not have achieved anything significant. Our bond grew stronger over the last few years, as we regularly engaged in conversations about baseball in Ontario.
As the saying goes, heroes are remembered, but legends never die. Coach Gary Wilson's impact will forever be etched in the hearts and minds of those he inspired.