Positive mental attitude fuels C.J.'s success
Angels left-hander has many interests outside of baseball to help him relax
There's a tattoo on the inside of C.J. Wilson's right wrist.
Nothing fancy, really, just three letters in script.
But those three letters speak volumes about Wilson and the way he lives his life.
The letters are "PMA," as in positive mental attitude, a philosophy Wilson's come to be a big believer in, along with the "straight edge" mantra for which he's better known.
PMA runs deep for Wilson.
"It's huge, and I think especially for baseball," Wilson said. "It's such a challenging game, obviously, and we're playing against the best people in the world. There is never an easy day. You're always going out there and trying to be the best you can, and you have to compete against people who are extremely, extremely good. And it's very challenging.
"If you have a positive mental attitude, then you can be positive for your teammates and kinda really get together [as a team] in that regard. If you're negative, you're usually by yourself in a corner and you need someone like me to give you a high five and tell you everything is going to be OK."
Whatever it is, it's definitely working for Wilson. The 32-year-old is an eight-year MLB veteran and has developed into the Angels' second ace.
It wasn't always that way, though. Wilson, like any other guy, has had his fair share of growing pains.
In 2003, Wilson faced a pitcher's worst nightmare: Tommy John surgery.
"I was at a crossroads in my career, because I felt I put so much into baseball," Wilson said. "And if I would have a bad game or something, I was really upset for days at a time. Because, you know, we all care about our results. We all want to do well. When you're in the Minors especially, you really want to succeed. You want to get to the Major Leagues. So if you lose the game, there's that thought in the back of your head: 'Oh man, maybe it's not going as well as I want.' And I think in order to stay positive, you try to learn new things."
That's a maxim Wilson took to extremes. He poured himself into his hobbies.
"I really learned how to cook and how to play the guitar and things like that," Wilson said. "That kind of pursuit, I guess, is what really helped me have more fun. Then when the game situation would come up, I wouldn't be so stressed out if there was a runner on first base, because I would be like, 'You know what? This is just a game. I just have to execute my pitch and I'm going to have fun.' "
Innocent enough, right?
Sure, until you get to the part where he ventured into the world of cliff jumping.
These were no metaphorical cliffs, either.
"I was scared of heights, so I started going cliff jumping, because there is no other way to safely get over your fear of heights -- jumping from the 10-foot board, then the 15-foot board, the 20-foot board," Wilson explained. "And then you're really not scared about the runner on third base, because you realized that you challenged your own mortality, which is a lot scarier than challenging a hitter with a changeup or whatever."
All in the name of bettering his game.
"I think that something people deal with a lot is they take the game home with them," Wilson said. "If you have something to go home to, whether it's family or a hobby or a girlfriend or a dog or anything that is an outside interest, it allows you to kind of save your baseball energy."
In fact, it's a wonder Wilson even has any "baseball energy." He's also a photographer and owner of a professional racing team, all in addition to being one of baseball's most visible players.
True, Wilson spends time behind the camera as a photographer, but he's more often than not on the other side of the flashbulb.
But that's something the California-born southpaw has always been comfortable with.
"One of the biggest things about baseball is it takes you out of your comfort zone constantly. It's a game of failure," Wilson said. "When you're experiencing some things off the field that are also taking you out of your comfort zone, eventually you learn how to just be comfortable in any situation, whether it's a camera or a microphone."
Or a pitcher's mound.
Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.