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Colton Wilson's comeback is completed

Nearly three years after being diagnosed with cancer, South Whidbey's Colton Wilson made it back to the diamond after a long journey off it

  • South Whidbey's Colton Wilson takes a lead off of first base during a recent game against Archbishop Murphy. Wilson, who was diagnosed with cancer in ...

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    South Whidbey's Colton Wilson takes a lead off of first base during a recent game against Archbishop Murphy. Wilson, who was diagnosed with cancer in July 2006, returned to the diamond to play baseball this season.

  • Colton Wilson holds up a Dan Wilson, former Mariner's catcher, signed jersey during the field dedication.

    Jennifer Buchanan/The Herald

    Colton Wilson holds up a Dan Wilson, former Mariner's catcher, signed jersey during the field dedication.

  • Colton Wilson hugs South Whidbey head coach Dave Guetlin after the dedication ceremony for the Falconsí new field.

    Jennifer Buchanan/The Herald

    Colton Wilson hugs South Whidbey head coach Dave Guetlin after the dedication ceremony for the Falconsí new field.

  • Mís second baseman Jose Lopez jokes with Colton Wilson after Wilson threw out the first pitch at a Marinersí game in 2007.

    Jennifer Buchanan/The Herald

    Mís second baseman Jose Lopez jokes with Colton Wilson after Wilson threw out the first pitch at a Marinersí game in 2007.

  • Colton Wilsonís teammates on the South Whidbey baseball team show support by shaving their heads.

    Jennifer Buchanan/The Herald

    Colton Wilsonís teammates on the South Whidbey baseball team show support by shaving their heads.

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By Kevin Johnson
Herald Writer
Published:
  • South Whidbey's Colton Wilson takes a lead off of first base during a recent game against Archbishop Murphy. Wilson, who was diagnosed with cancer in ...

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    South Whidbey's Colton Wilson takes a lead off of first base during a recent game against Archbishop Murphy. Wilson, who was diagnosed with cancer in July 2006, returned to the diamond to play baseball this season.

  • Colton Wilson holds up a Dan Wilson, former Mariner's catcher, signed jersey during the field dedication.

    Jennifer Buchanan/The Herald

    Colton Wilson holds up a Dan Wilson, former Mariner's catcher, signed jersey during the field dedication.

  • Colton Wilson hugs South Whidbey head coach Dave Guetlin after the dedication ceremony for the Falconsí new field.

    Jennifer Buchanan/The Herald

    Colton Wilson hugs South Whidbey head coach Dave Guetlin after the dedication ceremony for the Falconsí new field.

  • Mís second baseman Jose Lopez jokes with Colton Wilson after Wilson threw out the first pitch at a Marinersí game in 2007.

    Jennifer Buchanan/The Herald

    Mís second baseman Jose Lopez jokes with Colton Wilson after Wilson threw out the first pitch at a Marinersí game in 2007.

  • Colton Wilsonís teammates on the South Whidbey baseball team show support by shaving their heads.

    Jennifer Buchanan/The Herald

    Colton Wilsonís teammates on the South Whidbey baseball team show support by shaving their heads.

It was just a single -- a hard liner up the middle and into center field.
But for the mom sitting in the stands it was a mixture of relief and victory of a two-year battle against cancer that was finally won.
For the coach it was pride in seeing the result after a two-year struggle both physically and emotionally.
And for the teenager that ended up at first base as a result of that hit, it was just a game -- a game that he'd use as therapy; a game that he missed being a part of the past two years.
Colton Wilson's high school baseball career came to an end on May 1 in a 9-5 South Whidbey win over Granite Falls. And though Wilson's family and friends may be a bit sad that it ended so quickly, there's also a sense of joy that Wilson's season even occurred.
It was July 2006 when Wilson, fresh off a freshman season in which he flip-flopped between the Falcons' junior varsity and varsity squads, received the shocking news that he had Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that was found in the bone of Wilson's right tibia.
Wilson endured multiple rounds of chemotherapy. He had 51/2 inches of his tibia bone removed and replaced with bone from a donor. A few screws and a steel plate were also inserted into his leg. Playing the sport he loved again looked bleak.
Despite those chances, Wilson surprised his teammates and coaches with a selfless wish from the Make-A-Wish foundation. Wilson didn't want the trip to Disneyland or to throw out the first pitch at a baseball game -- he later did at a Mariners game when his story made headlines across the state -- what he really wanted was to redo his high school baseball field. Thanks in large part to the Make-A-Wish foundation and hundreds of volunteers, Wilson's wish was granted, and in June 2007, nearly a year after he was diagnosed, the renovated field was unveiled in a ceremony in Wilson's honor.
Still something was missing.
Wilson was itching for a chance to play on that new field. He headed to the backyard batting cage to take his cuts. All the while gearing up for his junior season and a return to the sport he cherished.
Then a relapse -- both physically and emotionally.
The donor bone was not taking with his bone and he broke two pins in his leg. He wasn't cleared to play, not that he was physically able to play anyway. It was a year neither he nor anyone else surrounding Wilson wants to talk about.
"My sophomore year I stuck around the field and helped out," Wilson said. "My junior year I had to get surgery. I couldn't go back on the field after that."
Wilson continued to work, using baseball as therapy from his mental and physical struggles.
"I played a mental game with myself. I always thought about baseball and just hitting in the cage. I had fun with it," Wilson said.
This February brought the start of his senior season and decision time for his parents, coaches and the final word from the doctor. Wilson already had his mind made up.
"I forewarned them that I was playing. I didn't know if I was going to be cleared," Wilson said.
Wilson walked nervously into his doctor's office to get the news, but was greeted with great news: "The doctor said to call him when my first game was. It was probably the best doctor appointment I ever had," Wilson said.
Fast forward to that games earlier this season and that single up the middle -- his first at-bat in two years.
A pinch-hit, first-pitch swinging liner past the pitcher.
His coach, Dave Guetlin, pinch ran for him, and gave him a hug as he returned to the dugout after jogging in from first base.
His mom, Lana Wilson, who had taken him to all those appointments and sat by his side while he went through treatment said, "I had relief that he did not lose his greatest love. I felt proud that he fought the battle of cancer and excitement that he got to play on the field he wished for."
Guetlin said it was inspiring to be a part of Wilson's journey from a sweet-swinging freshman to a teenager fighting cancer and then back again to sweet-swinging senior. "To have him come this far and get in there, it was cool. It was emotional," Guetlin said.
And for Wilson, the teenager that surprised everyone but himself with first his wish and now his improbable comeback was thinking only one thing: "Wow! I'm playing baseball!"
"I was full of joy. It was a good feeling. I really proved it to myself and my coach," Wilson added.
Wilson finished up his high school career batting .240 with a home run -- his first on an official size field -- and seven RBI.
Not bad considering all that Wilson's been through, the fact he's still getting used to his "new" leg and he had to miss the first few games because of a wrist injury.
"It was amazing to watch him progress. He hit the ball well for us," said Guetlin, who first started Wilson out as a designated hitter before playing him at third base.
In his finale, Wilson batted 3-for-4 with a double and four RBI. More importantly, he was able to play the position he grew up loving -- catcher.
Because of the demands his leg would require by crouching in the catching position he was told he may never play the position again, but Guetlin was able to squeeze him into a few innings and in South Whidbey's finale he played the final inning of the season behind the plate.
"At first I didn't want him to catch but he conned his way. He was pretty excited to be behind the plate," Guetlin said.
"I was excited," Wilson said, "I'll probably never catch again."
Wilson is in remission now. He's doing physical therapy for the leg and hopes to continue his own "therapy" by playing baseball at Everett Community College.
"I'm just getting into the groove now," Wilson said.
Story tags » Whidbey IslandSouth Whidbey High School

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