This week, I visited Mazda R&D in Irvine, California, and had the rare opportunity, along with a handful of other motorsports journalists, to sit down with CJ Wilson, starting pitcher for the Texas Rangers, and discuss his baseball career and, more importantly, his racing aspirations.
I was especially intrigued with how Wilson’s baseball career plays a big part in making his racing dreams come true. As a young boy he knew he wanted to be a race car driver before he even started playing baseball, but he also learned that the sport of racing has a hefty price tag attached to it. Wilson’s dad told him that if he wanted to get a race car he’d have to get a “cool” job to be able to afford it. Wilson then literally wrote down on paper that he was going to be a professional baseball player.
He began playing baseball at age 9 and finally made his way up to the big leagues in his early 20s, even after enduring Tommy John surgery while in the minors.
A few years ago Wilson (now 30 years old) was finally able to begin his racing career, which allows him to compete in road racing during the MLB offseason. “I’m developing myself through the minor leagues of racing,” he noted. “I try not to dive in past my talent level. I respect the racing institution so it’s important for me to earn it.”
C.J. is working his way up the motorsports ladder and already took a class win in the 2010 NASA 25 Hour - in a Mazda MX-5 Miata, and he co-owns a team competing in the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup. His racing season is rather unique as he can only race after the baseball season concludes and prior to Spring Training, hence C.J. only races November-February.
During the baseball season he tries to acquire as much track time as possible, and previously living at Motorsport Ranch in Texas for a year definitely helped with that, but he mostly develops his driving skills in other ways, such as practicing on his in-home race simulator and visualization. “You can develop outside of the car if you have focus,” he said. “The desire is there and the technical knowledge is there, I just need more seat time.”
After all of Wilson’s goals are reached in his baseball career, he’ll turn all his focus to racing, in which his ultimate desire is to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, either as a driver or team owner.
My favorite part of the discussion with Wilson was hearing about how focused and determined he is to excel in his racing career and in life in general. I always love seeing that immense enthusiasm.