All-Star Wick

Warriors rejoice! Bobby Wick will represent the Cleveland Indians at the All-Star game in Detroit on July 12th.

In less than a year’s time, our hero has accomplished the remarkable feat of going from an elbow surgery comeback to being the only Tribe player named to the Mid-summer Classic.

Being true to form, Bob asked about his teammates as soon as he heard the news.

“The sad thing is not everyone can make it. Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Arthur Rhodes and Cliff Lee all have gripes about it. They’ve had real good years also.”

This will be Bob’s second appearance at the All-Star game, having gone with the National League Brewers in 2000. He pitched one scoreless inning in that game. A save at this year’s Classic could secure home field advantage for the American League in the World Series.

Bob said he’d be enjoying the trip with his family. “We’ll be taking the kids with us. They were too young the last time to really enjoy it.”

Although he got off to a slow start, the Wicksters’ teammates and fans never doubted him. He went into this week leading the League with 22 saves and a .261 ERA.

“I had no idea I would make it, he said. For a couple of years, I had pretty good years and didn’t make it.”

Bobby’s awesome accomplishments are especially gratifying to everyone here at the Warriors Club, who stuck by their guy through a couple of really tough years. We can all take pride in recognizing a great ballplayer when we see one. In the feel-good story of the year, the good guy finished first. J.Ladd  7-4-05 

  

*Note: Bob’s great success this year has been a boon to the Club’s cause. As of June 26th, Wickman’s Warriors has raised over $1000 for CIC since opening day, a new club record. See Membership page for all the thrilling details.

Wickman not a regular pitcher

All-Star closer hasn't strayed from small-town roots

By Mike Bauman / MLB.com  07/11/2005 5:21 PM ET

DETROIT -- Of all the stars of the game on hand for the 2005 All-Star Game, there may be no single player who seems to be more of a regular guy, the next-door neighbor, Joe from down the block, than Bob Wickman, closer of the Cleveland Indians.

He has been an All-Star in both leagues now, but he has never forgotten where he came from. Specifically, that would be Abrams, Wis., a very small town in northeastern Wisconsin. It's country. It's Packer country.

"This means a lot to me, coming from Abrams, a small community, population about 150 people, we've still got the 'unincorporated' sign," Wickman says. "Going to Oconto Falls (for high school), then coming from Whitewater (a University of Wisconsin branch), it was huge, being the first guy ever drafted out of there, and this year they had a guy drafted out of there in the sixth round, and he's actually from up by where I live now, up around the Marinette area."

In a way, Wickman never left. Yes, he became an All-Star closer for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2000, and now, five years, major elbow surgery, and major post-surgery setback later, he is back. But he still makes his home in the small-town Wisconsin, the Township of Wagner.

"People there know I play baseball and I'm sure they might look at it a different way, but I go to deer camps, I go to the corner bar every Friday night and buy a fish fry and bring it home, and everybody says hello to me," Wickman says. "That's a huge thing in Wisconsin, every Friday night have a perch plate or a walleye plate. I go into the bar, buy a few drinks for the people and take the fish home to the family. They're all hard-working people up there, they leave you alone. But if they need something, they're not afraid to come over and ask for an autograph. I got a nice tractor now and when I'm home I plow fields for people. My buddy that helps me out, he goes in my garage now, grabs the tractor and plows the fields for the neighbors."

It's a good life. But the professional part of it hasn't been completely painless. Just pitching again after major elbow reconstruction cost him the 2003 season and a subsequent strain cost him a sizable portion of 2004, is a major accomplishment for Wickman, now 36.

Coming to this season, his goals had nothing to do with an All-Star appearance. Sure, he wanted to get the Indians back in the playoffs. But first he needed to get through Spring Training. And then the goal would be to get through the entire season without going on the disabled list.

But here he is, in midseason, re-established as one of the leading closers in the game, that status made official by his appearance as an All-Star.

"It's a big accomplishment, but it's like a gift to my family," Wickman says. "We've been through a lot the last few years with the surgery and everything and it's like a gift to them for sticking with me throughout the hard times. If I didn't have the (three) kids and my wife, I don't know if I'd be sitting here today talking to you about this."

With his family, Wickman says, that there are people in the world who are going to care about him even if there's been a blown save or an injured arm. That as much as anything has kept him going. "When I can't throw a baseball, I've still got these four people waiting for me every single night."

He is not quite the same pitcher as he was in his All-Star appearance five years ago. "I had a power slider back then, my slider's not too hot right now," Wickman says with typical candor. "I've definitely lost velocity off my breaking ball and that was the equalizer pitch I always had. If I got into a situation where I had to throw a slider, it was a lot firmer and a lot sharper pitch. It's more of a curveball now, working better against lefties. I throw my fastball the same way, 90, 91 (mph), the slider would be 85 or 86. Now it's 81 or 82."

Wickman compensates now with more precise location. "I think the location, I'm a little different pitcher that way where I concentrate a little more on hitting my spots instead of just being able to throw the sinker and saying, 'Where it goes is where it goes.'

"I tried that earlier in the year," Wickman added with a smile, "and the White Sox blasted me for two home runs. So that kind of changed in a hurry."

Now he's an All-Star again. "I feel like I belong, but I'm still in awe, because of the names here and what they've done in the game of baseball," Wickman says. "There's more jitters [pitching here]. In 2000, guys in the bullpen kept telling me, 'It's just like coming in in the ninth and facing the [Nos.] three, four, five, hitters, just imagine your facing, three, four and five all the time.' It's a little easier said than done. The guys I faced, Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez, over my career had hit the ball pretty good off me, but that day I got them out."

Let the record show that Bob Wickman retired McGriff, Martinez and Tony Batista in order in the eighth inning of the 2000 All-Star Game.

It's a long way from Abrams, from Oconto Falls, and from Whitewater to the All-Star Game, but Bob Wickman has stayed the course and made the journey. The arm was hurt, the slider changed, but the pitcher, the man, even now as an All-Star from both leagues, remained the same.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

The Pride of the Indians

Bobby Wick’s second All-Star appearance was a brief one, but the experience was rewarding for Bob and his family.

Manager Terry Francona, perhaps realizing this might be Bobby’s last chance to play in the Mid-summer classic, brought him in to start the ninth against Andruw Jones with the AL ahead 7-3. Bob, not looking very sharp and maybe a little nervous, walked Jones on 5 pitches and was removed for Baltimore closer B.J. Ryan. The American League eventually won 7-5 with Mariano Rivera picking up the save.

The real story was the class that Bob and the Wickman family showed in representing the Cleveland Indians.

“It was wonderful”, said the big guy. “The kids had an opportunity to run around the field a little on Monday night. We took some pictures, and it was very special. They’re going to have some great memories.”

The All-Star game may be a round of parties for most players, but it was family time for the Wickmans. “As much as possible.” Wick said. “It was a good opportunity for the little ones to meet the other players’ kids. We road to the park and threw candy to the crowd. Joe Nathan was in our car, and one of the kids said: ‘There’s that Minnesota Twins guy!’”

There were no late nights for the Wickmans. “You’ve got to make sure the kids get enough sleep. Monday night we were zonked. After the home run hitting contest, that’s probably the fastest I was in and out of a clubhouse. Fifteen minutes later, we were on the bus and two of the kids fell asleep in Mom’s arms.”

If the Indians could only have one player at this summers’ classic, they couldn’t have had a finer representative that Bob Wickman.

“I’ll cherish this as much as possible,” said the Wickster. “I’ll never take anything for granted. Just being here with the league’s best, voted or not voted on, is something very special.” J. Ladd – 7-13 -05