Chad Wilson was upset. His oldest son Bryse was on his cellphone Sunday as a bearer of bad news. Bryse would not be pitching as scheduled Tuesday night for Atlanta’s Gwinnett affiliate at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
The older Wilson and his wife Tracey had lined up a tidy contingency of family and friends in the Hillsborough area to see their son pitch. The party at the park had to be canceled.
“I’m pitching Monday,” Bryse told his Dad.
“You don’t play Monday,” Dad responded.
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“I’m pitching in Pittsburgh.”
By Monday night, Chad and Tracey were in the stands at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park to watch Bryse make his major-league debut for Atlanta. The 20-year-old right-hander not only threw five shutout innings, he also became the youngest starter to make a scoreless MLB debut since Scott Kazmir for Tampa Bay in 2004 and the youngest pitcher ever to debut with a 1-0 win.
No one was likely prouder of Bryse than his younger brother by two years, Payton. You might know Payton as a national top-five linebacker prospect coming out of Hillsborough Orange High a year ago. He cast his lot with N.C. State where he was projected to be a starter until a knee injury led to a redshirt this season.
That two extraordinary athletes could emerge from one family is unusual, to say the least. Yet it was not the Hillsborough water or the Hog Day barbecue that somehow proved magical to the Wilsons.
Rather, it was an unwavering commitment on their parents’ part to make certain their two sons would have every possible opportunity to succeed in athletics. With that came a resolve to academics, an occasional road block to athletic success that would not affect their sons.
Chad spoke from experience to his sons. He was an outstanding football and baseball player at Orange High, good enough to possibly play either sport at a mid-major college program, according to recently retired coach Dean Dease.
“I just didn’t have my head on straight, didn’t do my studying as much as I should have,” Chad says. “It was just kind of my fault. Didn’t focus as much as I should have. That’s what I didn’t do.”
Instead, Chad joined the Army Reserves. After four years of service, he met and married Tracey, who had played volleyball at nearby Graham High. Both have worked for more than two decades, Chad as a truck driver for Sysco Foods and Tracey for Blue Cross Blue Shield.
And they raised two highly athletic sons.
“We need to try to get those grades up or we just won’t go to the field today,” Chad recalls telling his boys on occasion. “We’ll be here on the kitchen table with me and Mom and we’ll be going through our studies.”
When they hit the fields, more often than not it was around their home off St. Mary’s Road in Hillsborough. Chad constructed a batting cage in the front yard. He lined off a football field with chalk in the backyard along with a concrete pad for a basketball court. The family held sled-pulling contests and Bryse learned to pitch by throwing through a tire attached to the bottom of the trampoline with a net to catch the balls.
Bryse was an outstanding football and baseball player, and concentrated on the latter after carrying Orange to the Class AAA state championship game as a freshman. He compiled a 33-4 career record, including a 10-2 mark as a senior that included six shutouts, three no-hitters and a perfect game. He committed to play baseball at UNC.
Then came the MLB Draft. Atlanta selected Bryse in the fourth round and went above the designated slot value to sign him for $1.2 million. It was the highest signing bonus among those taken in 2016’s fourth round, according to Allan Simpson’s Draft Book.
Payton was a state wrestling champion as a junior and all-conference performer in lacrosse. Football was his game, though, and he spurned offers from the likes of Alabama, Clemson and Penn State to play for the Wolfpack.
Bryse and Payton left high school as two of the greatest athletes in Orange history, one of whom showed the poise of a veteran in his MLB debut Monday in Pittsburgh. Former coach Dease watched the game on TV at his Hillsborough home.
“It was unbelievable when they would pan to a close up and have his face on the television,” Dease says. “I kept thinking, ‘Are we really watching him?’ It was kind of just unbelievable, but I know how hard he worked.”
Mom and Dad made sure of that.