Former Stanford teammates now foes in Northwest League


Two 2013 Stanford draftees quickly find themselves opposing one another

Austin Wilson and Brian Ragira were teammates at Stanford University just three months ago. Now, in the middle of August, they have faced off against one another in professional uniforms for the tenth time in 42 days.

Their respective teams are rivals in the Class A short-season Northwest League, and both players find it strange to root against a friend.

“It’s kind of funny being so close and being teammates with him, then coming to pro ball, being in different organizations and then ultimately playing each other,” Wilson said. “It’s pretty humorous.”

Wilson was the higher draft pick of the two, being selected 49th overall by the Seattle Mariners while Ragira was a fourth-round selection by the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

“It’s weird looking out there and seeing the guy that was manning right field for so many years doing it for the other team,” Ragira said.

Ragira now mans right field for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, and although he played first base predominantly at Stanford, he’s not surprised to be roaming the outfield as a professional.

“Ever since high school I’ve been playing different positions and they’ve been saying that I’m eventually going to be a corner outfielder,” Ragira said. “And now I’m here with the Giants and that’s where they’ve put me. So it’s nice to be out there getting comfortable with it.”

Wilson played right field at Stanford and that’s exactly where Seattle wants him right now. The organization’s No.8 -ranked prospect, Wilson jumped Arizona Rookie League to join the AquaSox in Everett, Wash. but says he’s had a difficult time adjusting to live pitching after missing almost half his junior season at Stanford with an elbow injury.

That injury, a stress reaction in the olecranon, basically a small crack at the tip of the elbow, sidelined Wilson for nearly seven weeks beginning on Feb. 16 and likely affected the  6-foot, 5-inch Los Angeles-native’s draft stock.

Before the injury, Wilson’s name was a sure bet to be called in the first round of June’s draft.

The slow start has yielded a .200 batting average in 155 at-bats, but despite the slump, Wilson remains unfazed.

I don’t really care about the numbers, per se, right now,” Wilson said. “Literally I was batting like .060 or something wild like that and now I’m up around .200 so it was pretty wild.”

Ragira has had the hotter bat, going 5-for-18 with two doubles and five RBIs in this week’s five-game set with Everett, while Wilson managed just two hits in 14 at-bats.

“I’m just worried about getting at-bats,” Wilson said. “I’m not really focused on the average but to have high quality at-bats and drive the ball.

“If they catch it, they catch it  and if they drop, they drop,” he said.

Wilson and Ragira were close at Stanford, reaching the NCAA Super Regionals two out of three years together under head coach Mark Marquess.

“He was probably one of my better buddies on that team,” Ragira said. “We spent a lot of time hanging out and spent a lot of time together on the field so we built a pretty strong relationship.”

Before and after the draft, the two managed to maintain their friendship. They were teammates last summer playing for the Harwich Mariners of the Cape Cod League. They even had dinner together after the first two games of the series, chatting about their new lives in Pacific Northwest cities.

“It’s pretty cool watching him play out here from a different point of view,” Wilson said.

With both Salem-Keizer and Everett atop their respective Northwest League divisions, it’s likely they will meet once again, but under the pressures of playoff baseball.

“There are kind of mixed feelings,” Ragira said. “I’m used to rooting for him and now I’m hoping in those same spots that he gets out.”