Craig Wilson hopes the next time the St. Louis Cardinals organization turns to him for help, it will only have to look as far as the team's dugout.
After starting the last two seasons in the minor leagues only to be called up to the majors during the summer, the Annapolisgraduate is eager to make his latest bid to remain with the club on a full-time basis.
First, he must wait another 20 days before leaving for St. Petersburg, Fla., for spring training.
"I know nothing's guaranteed," hesaid. "I'm just going there to win a spot on the team and go from there."
Wilson, 26, spent an unseasonably warm Monday afternoon at his college alma mater, working out with the Anne Arundel Community College baseball team. Afterward, he ducked into the gymnasium to watchthe latter portion of the men's basketball team's victory over Essex Community College.
He has yet to sign with the Cardinals, who paid him $100,000 last season, but says he is close to doing so. He would not disclose the terms of the new contract.
Wilson appeared in 55 games with the Cardinals last season after being promoted from Triple A Louisville on June 7. While playing both in the outfield and at second and third base, he batted .248 with two doubles, seven RBI and13 runs scored.
His playing time with the Cardinals dwindled overthe final weeks of the season, but he said he still believes he fitsinto the team's long-range plans.
"I just think it was a case of(manager Joe Torre) wanting to look at some other people," Wilson said. "I had been up for a while and had a few at-bats. He saw me play some, and he probably wanted to look at some of the younger guys."
The Cardinals' roster is filled with "younger guys," as the club continues to rebuild after the departures of such high-priced veterans as outfielders Vince Coleman and Willie McGee and third baseman Terry Pendleton.
"With the way they're in a transition right now and with all the moves they've made, a lot of jobs are opening up right nowand they're giving people a chance to win jobs," Wilson said. "Hopefully, I'll be given a chance to compete. I've played a couple of positions now, so I'm pretty much known as a utility player."
Then came the popular refrain spoken by most athletes at one time during their careers.
"I just want to go out and do whatever I can to help the club," Wilson said.
Only time will tell whether he will be giventhe opportunity to do so.