Former Ranger has Oakridge baseball turning the corner

Posted Thursday, Apr. 17, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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After a few years of complacency, Arlington Oakridge was looking to a coach with serious local ties to change the baseball culture.

Curtis Wilkerson, the Texas Rangers rookie of the year in 1984, has been at the helm of the Owls for three years and the program is starting to see results.

Led by a group of strong sophomores, Oakridge is 11-10-2 overall and 4-2 in SPC play.

“They’re playing pretty good right now,” Wilkerson said. “They’re just kids that we’re developing them, and they’re learning it and figuring out the system. And they are getting better and better.”

Changing the way players and parents look at the sport has been key for Wilkerson.

“I think, when I came in, they weren’t that serious about baseball,” he said. “Over the course of a year or two, they got more serious because of what I demand. If you’re going to come out and play, let’s get after it the right way.”

It has also been a learning experience for Wilkerson, who had professional managerial experience at levels as high as Triple A.

“When I coach at the high school level, I assume that they don’t know, so I try and teach them the right stuff,” Wilkerson said. “I realized that you can’t just tell them to go out and do this, you have to demonstrate it and show them because maybe some stuff they don’t understand.”

Part of the success has come from the team’s ability to pick up on these new lessons quickly.

Sophomore infielder Parker Welch leads the team in hitting at .491, followed by sophomore left fielder Gordon Flemming at .397. On the mound, sophomore Connor Clark has a three-game winning streak in district.

Wilkerson has created a system at Oakridge that begins at the middle school level, coached by Jerry Browne, one of Wilkerson’s Rangers teammates.

With young talent already excelling at the varsity level, and plenty more coming behind the sophomore group, the Owls’ future is bright.

“It’s going to be interesting in the future,” Wilkerson said. “They’re fundamentally sound. Sometimes stuff gets out of hand, but they are learning from their mistakes and that’s a positive thing.”

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