Before C.J. Wilson turned 13 he made a serious decision about his lifestyle.
Wilson believed alcohol or drugs could keep him from his dreams. Growing up in Orange County, he was introduced to the Straight Edge crowd. He decided to be one of them and refrain from booze and drugs. Baseball kept him out of trouble in Huntington Beach and the Straight Edge way kept him on his path to big-league dreams.
"I made a decision that I never wanted to drink or do drugs because I've seen some bad stuff growing up," said Wilson, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 32-year-old pitcher who played for Edison High before transferring to Fountain Valley. "There were kids in my neighborhood, and older kids, and people in my family that had problems with drugs and alcohol.
"I wanted to be a Major League player at a very young age and I knew if I was a drinker or did drugs that wasn't going to get me there. I had to work really hard. I always honored the process in that sense. I never drank or did anything like that because I felt it would be a hindrance to my career."
It can be said, Wilson achieved his dreams. But there is certainly more to accomplish. Expectations are high once again for the Angels, and Wilson knows he must rebound from a rough close to 2012 to help his team reach them.
He was in L.A. Friday as a new "Mane Man," for Head & Shoulders For Men, which launched a charity/marketing campaign with Wilson as its main spokesperson.
Wilson wants to be a main man for the Angels. That's what he was paid to do when he signed a five-year, $77.5 million contract.
The lefty had a nice start, going 9-5 with a 2.43 earned-run average and a spot on the All-Star team in his first season with the Angels last year. But the second half of the season, he battled left-elbow problems and closed with a 4-5 record and a 5.54 ERA.
"Even though I made the All-Star team I wasn't satisfied with how [the season] started," Wilson said. "I always expect myself to do better. Once the second half started I had problems with my elbow, with bone spurs and I started to lose range of motion. I just wanted to go out there and pitch, but I knew I wasn't myself. I just kept going because that's what we're paid to do. But it didn't go well."
Wilson said he had surgery "to get everything cleaned out on Oct. 23."
"I feel really good," he said. "I'm excited. Any time you get a chance to get a fresh start it helps you out."
He knows he'll need to do better than his spring outing last week against the Royals when he gave up eight runs (six earned) on eight hits in 2 2/3 innings. He wants to put at ease the growing concern for Angels pitching that Manager Mike Scioscia has.
Friday, at the Grove in L.A., was a time to put that to the side, as Wilson made the rounds for interviews and talked about his campaign with Head & Shoulders. His new teammate, Josh Hamilton, was also there along with Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Wilson showed he can be silly. He pitched a whiffle ball to Polamalu and then to Hamilton. Wilson also pitched to an Easter Bunny character and took pictures with him.
Much of it was for a good cause, as Wilson was there to promote, "Season of the Whiff." For every "whiff" (strikeout) in MLB during this regular season, Head & Shoulders will donate $1 to the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program.
Fans get involved by tweeting the strikeouts using "#whiff" and their favorite team's handle to gain donations for their local RBI chapter.
Wilson, who is on Twitter (@str8edgeracer), said he enjoyed growing up in Orange County, and said it was a great area to become a Major League player. When he gained success as a pro that allowed him to give back with charities, he said, as he has also been involved working with children's hospitals.
Wilson, who was born at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, played for Seaview Little League in Huntington Beach. He said he also played for a travel team that usually practiced at Newport Harbor.
He started at Edison but said he was attracted to Fountain Valley because of its high national ranking at the time and the opportunities that provided.
"Orange County is one of the most competitive places in the world to play baseball," Wilson said. "The whole Southern California area is hot for baseball players.
"If you grow up any where in Southern California, you have a good chance to make it as a Major Leaguer. You have so many facilities, there are fields every where. There's always a game going on. There are teams every where. There's weather that allows you to play. There's no snow. It's really a great place to grow up and play baseball."