Former Northeastern State outfielder Trent Wilkins has signed a contract for the rest of the season with the Newark Bears of the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball.
Wilkins inked his deal on July 27 and has already seen action in the team’s last four games. The centerfielder has recorded at least one hit in each of his last three outings and is batting .267 (4-for-15) overall. He has one extra-base hit, three runs batted in and three runs scored.
“I was playing in the Texas Summer League and a scout saw me and put me in contact with one of the Newark representatives,” Wilkins said. “I’m excited to be able to continue my baseball career. I always knew I was going to try to play professionally, and I’m glad I’m finally getting that chance.”
The Can-Am Association is a five-team independent league located primarily in Quebec and the New York City metropolitan area. Wilkins has helped Newark win two of its last three games, taking a recent series from the first-place Quebec Capitales.
“As far as college athletics go, Trent Wilkins’ story is pretty unique. It’s pretty special for a guy to play college football at the Division I level and then have this much success on the baseball field,” NSU baseball coach Travis Janssen said. “After high school he didn’t touch a ball or a bat for four years and was able to earn a starting job for us in about a month. That says something about Trent’s work ethic and ability.”
Wilkins was thrown right into the fire for Newark, as he was slotted as the leadoff man in his first game for the Bears on July 28 against the Rockland Boulders.
“There was definitely a lot of pressure batting leadoff in my first professional game,” Wilkins said. “The regular leadoff guy got hurt, so they threw me in there. The pitchers throw faster at this level with more velocity than what I’ve been seeing the past couple of years. I’m still adjusting, but I’m getting more comfortable each day.”
Wilkins said the league is comprised mainly of former Major League Baseball minor league players, with a few players tossed in that made it to the big leagues. The season concludes in September, and he said he hopes to be able to impress the team enough to warrant a second deal next year.
“One thing that sets me apart from a lot of players is my speed,” Wilkins said. “I want to be able to get some steals and let the more experienced players drive me in. I just want to get on base any way I can.”
Wilkins spent his last two collegiate years playing baseball at Northeastern State after transferring from the University of Tulsa.
“Trent represented the NSU baseball program in a class manner. He was an excellent ambassador of our program,” Janssen said. “Coach (Dusty) Hess deserves a lot of credit. Trent wanted to do the work, and Coach Hess put in a lot of hours helping Trent get him back in baseball shape. I’m very happy and excited that he is able to chase down a dream and get the opportunity to play professional baseball.”
At NSU, Wilkins played in 97 games and made 93 starts. He compiled a .335 batting average (113-for-337) to go along with 78 runs scored, 71 runs batted in, 27 doubles, three triples, and seven home runs. The speedster also tallied a team-best 23 steals.
He was a reserve defensive back for four seasons as a member of the Golden Hurricane football team, where he appeared in 37 contests and made 49 career tackles.
Wilkins became the second former RiverHawk to sign a professional deal this offseason, as pitcher Trevor Walch recently inked a two-year deal with the Evansville Otters of the Frontier League.