PEORIA, Ariz. -- This time last year, Seattle Mariners reliever Tom Wilhelmsen was a long shot, a novelty act, not much more than a footnote. But now? He's a bonafide major league pitcher.
A seventh-round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2002 out of Tucson High, Wilhelmsen and his mean fastball seemed destined for the big leagues. But after a pair of positive drug tests for marijuana, he found himself suspended for the 2004 season and ready give up baseball completely.
So he walked away, instead spending his days hiking the U.S. and Europe, playing recreational league softball and tending bar near the University of Arizona campus.
Eventually, Wilhelmsen decided he was tired of mixing drinks and pouring beers late into the night. He wasn't looking for any favors or the feel-good story that could make a Hollywood screenwriter salivate.
"I never wanted it to be like a story," Wilhelmsen said. "I just kind of wanted to do something different, and baseball presented itself, s...