Panthers in the minor leagues


Former Georgia State baseball players Chase Raffield and Nic Wilson battled their way through the grind of a professional baseball season for the first time.

The pair were both draft picks in the 2014 MLB first-year player draft in June. Raffield was taken in the thirty-seventh round by the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Wilson was selected in the twenty-fourth round by the Tampa Bay Rays organization.

Raffield was a third-team Louisville Slugger All-American in his senior season for the Panthers along with first team winning All-Sun Belt honors. He had a total of 24 home runs in a Georgia State uniform along with 110 total runs batted in over his Panthers career.

He spent his first season playing with the Cardinals’ single-A minor league affiliate–the State College Spikes in the New York-Penn League. Raffield posted a 199 batting average with four home runs and 22 runs batted in during his 146 at bats in his 47 games this season.

Raffield was a part of a team that won the first league championship in the franchise’s history.

Wilson was a second-team Louisville Slugger All-American last season for the Panthers. He clubbed 18 home runs last season, the third-most all time in Panthers history for a single season. Wilson totaled 26 home runs in his time in a Georgia State uniform.

He spent his first professional season in the Tampa Bay Rays rookie level club with the Princeton Rays of the Appalachian League.

Wilson had a batting average of .207 with 10 home runs and 29 runs batted in. He played 54 games and notched 217 at bats while playing first base.

Wilson has already noticed the difference from the professional ranks of baseball. There is a daily grind and the pressure to perform or risk of falling out of the professional ranks altogether. In college a player can make mistakes and make up for it the next game and still hold a four-year scholarship.

“First of all, you just sort of realize there are a lot of really great players out there,” Wilson said of his early impressions of professional baseball. “You trust that you fit in and you belong, but it’s not easy and you have to show up and work every day if you want to stay in this business.”

The game of baseball goes from being just a game to being a business after entering the professional ranks. This makes for an “every man for himself” mentality in the realm of professional baseball.


Lean on me

Even with that being the case, the two former Georgia State sluggers, Wilson and Raffield, have kept in touch. Wilson says that he follows his former teammate’s career and that the two have learned to draw from each other’s strengths for advice in terms of leaning on each other and have grown close.

“We’ve kind of kept in touch throughout the year, kind of kept each other motivated and we talk periodically. And I’d say Chase and I are very close. When one of us needs to talk to somebody, we reach out to each other,” Wilson said of his relationship with Raffield.

The pair is sticking together and paving the way for potential professional players that will be suiting up for the Panthers this season on the diamond. Wilson has spent time around the younger players and has tried to help give a guide on how the professional ranks stack up to college baseball as well as on what is needed for successfully transitioning.

“You’ve just got to commit yourself to working every day and commit yourself to the process and trust that process; and if you do you’ll have a chance to advance your career,” Wilson said of the advice he gives his former teammates.

Wilson and Raffield are both bearing witness to the commitment it takes to be a professional athlete. As the grind of this season has come to a close, the work now only continues as most players will go into an offseason training program to get ready for spring training.

Wilson will have a few more weeks of the Fall Instructional League and then he will begin his offseason routine.

Raffield and Wilson will look to break into the major leagues and join another former Panther — current Philadelphia Phillies pitcher David Buchanan — who made his major league debut in 2014.

Wilson and Raffield continue their journeys into the big leagues when spring training opens in March.