Start with a top prep prospect out of Valico, Fla., in the Tampa Bay area, a 2020 grad who through hard work and determination earned the right to play at the highest level of college baseball in the Atlantic Coast Conference at a prestigious university in North Carolina, and just sit back and watch him grow.
The kid really came into his own this spring so he’s directed toward an ultimate summer collegiate baseball opportunity that encourages even further growth, thanks to the hands-on experiences provided within the structure of the historic Cape Cod League.
And so it went for 19-year-old Brock Wilken, a strong and athletic right-handed hitting third baseman who late last month began his sophomore year at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Perfect Game ranked the now 6-foot-4, 225-pound Wilken as the No. 82 overall prospect in the class of 2020 when he graduated from Bloomingdale High School about 15 months ago. He carried that high profile right into what turned into a stellar freshman season with the Demon Deacons this past spring.
Once his first collegiate season was in the books, Wilken took his next big step. He was awarded a roster spot with the Harwich Mariners for the summer on the Cape, and even though he was among the youngest players in the league he developed into what PG scouts ultimately identified as the CCL’s top overall prospect during the course of the 2021 season.
In 36 games, Wilken hit .302 (39-for-129) with six home runs, a league-high 10 doubles, 26 RBI and 26 runs scored. Perfect Game has taken it one step further and named Brock Wilken PG Summer Collegiate National Player of the Year.
Harwich is a delightful sports fishing port town on the hook-shaped Cape Cod peninsula and Wilken wasted little time getting acclimated to both the community and it’s charming Whitehouse Field, the home of the Mariners.
“It was probably the most amazing, the most fun summer I’ve ever had, and playing baseball just added that much to it,” Wilken told PG during an enjoyable telephone conversation late last week.
“I created some bonds there that I think I’ll have for the rest of my life, especially with my host family [the O’Leary’s]. They were the greatest host family anybody could ever ask for...I made a real special bond with the three boys that they have – I love kids – and being a part of their lives for two whole months was pretty special for me.”
Wilken is back on the Wake Forest campus in Winston-Salem, N.C., now where classes have been in session for the last three weeks. He’s also started doing individual workouts with the Demon Deacons baseball team and a couple of fall scrimmages are on the upcoming schedule.
Coming off the chaotic pandemic fall of 2020 – Wilken’s freshman year and his first somewhat distorted taste of college life – he’s gradually working his way into a more “normal” routine.
“It’s definitely been weird,” he said. “I’m having to ask all my teammates, hey, where is this classroom and all of that different stuff, but it’s good being in-person. I like being in-person more; I feel like I can focus a little bit more and have less distractions. And the meeting-new-people part of it, that’s really cool, too.”
Perfect Game named Wilken a First Team Freshman All-American at the conclusion of the 2021 season, one in which Wake finished a disappointing 20-27 overall (10-22 ACC). He started all 47 games, compiling a slash-line of .279/.365/.617 with 17 home runs, 11 doubles, 44 RBI and 41 runs scored.
Wilken had mixed emotions when asked if he was pleased with how his rookie season in the ACC worked itself out: “Personally, yes; team-wise, not so much,” he said. “I’d much rather have wins and do better as a team than [having] any personal success. I think that having team success first creates personal success later on, and that’s a big part of it.”
When calling his individual performance “all right” Wilken knew there are a lot of areas he could improve upon. So he took that “let’s get better” attitude with him into Cape Cod League play and didn’t waste time getting down toSo h it. His main points of emphasis were on the defensive side while also building up his walk numbers; he led the Mariners with 25 walks in their 36 games.
”The baseball side of it, it was super special,” Wilken said of his time on the Cape. “It’s really mesmerizing to go out there and see how much talent there is...When we’re playing kids from junior colleges in California it’s like, damn, who is that kid? He’s pumping 96 and [you realize] there’s a lot more talent out there than you really thought.”
One of the players he became especially close with was Brooks Lee, a sophomore shortstop at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Calif., who played with Yarmouth-Dennis; PG named Lee the league’s No. 2 top prospect behind Wilken.
In reality, the connections he made are nearly endless, including those with other Harwich top-50 prospects like Eric Reyzelman (LSU), Trey Dombroski (Monmouth), Pres Cavenaugh (UNC Greensboro) and Andrew Mosiello (Oregon).
Wilken was also greeted by really familiar face in the Harwich dugout, catcher Brendan Tinsman, who is now in his senior year at Wake Forest.
The Cape experience provided Wilken with the opportunity to get around a lot of different top college prospects from coast-to-coast and he embraced that opportunity. He knew of quite a few his Harwich teammates from Florida – guys like Alex Rao and Brandon Walker – from his travel ball days playing with Ostingers Baseball Academy but was never able to get to know them well.
“Finally starting to play with them and actually see how good those guys are, it’s really cool and fun to watch,” Wilken said. “Creating a bond with them that I’ll have forever is super, super special and being the youngest guy out there, those guys really took me under their wing and really helped me develop...Whatever it was, they were there to help me and walk me through it which was really special for me to see.”
Wilken was rostered at 25 PG events during his prep years, 24 of them WWBA, BCS or Super25 tournaments while playing with Ostingers. He was named to the all-tournament team 13 times from 2017-19 and the MVP at 2018 PG Upperclass East Labor Day Classic and at the 209 PG Super25 17u National Championship.
He was a two-time participant at both the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship and the PG WWBA World Championship (Jupiter), the two biggest tournaments on PG’s fall calendar. His only showcase experience came at the 2020 PG World Showcase, the final event of his PG career; he earned a spot on the Top Prospect List. Each of those experiences continue to resonate loudly.
“I credit that to my coaches and my teams that I played with for all those years,” Wilken said. “If it wasn’t for the same group of guys that I played with for four years and the same coaches that I’ve had in both high school and summer ball, I honestly don’t think I would be where I’m at today.”
The coaches he credits are the head man at Bloomingdale HS, his uncle Kris Wilken, and at Ostingers BA, program founder Jim Osting. He calls his old teammates from his high school and travel ball teams his best friends for life, guys who he hopes will one day be members of his wedding party.
Among his best friends, and there are many, one in particular stands out: middle-infielder Sean (Grady) Maguire. A 2020 grad from Tampa, Maguire is continuing his career at Florida Southern.
“We started something special our freshman year and it was something, I don’t know, we just clicked,” Wilken said. “I consider him like blood to me; we’ve been through so much together. He is my day-one best friend...and he’s probably going to be the best man at my wedding.”
After returning home to Florida from the Cape in early August, Wilken had a full two weeks to reflect on his summer. He considered the life he enjoyed over the previous two months and just how special that time was.
But once he got back on the Wake Forest campus, he also knew it was time to leave it all in the past and get back to work. Time stands still for no one, not even the 2021 PG Summer Collegiate Player of the Year.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with any work I do; I consider myself the hardest working guy out here,” Wilken said. “I just finished class 20 minutes ago and I’m already at the field and I’ll be here until they tell us we have to leave...I just love being at the field with my coaches [and] my teammates and I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied.”