NEW YORK -- C.J. Wilson was the first active Major League Baseball player on Twitter -- five years, 125 starts and nearly 17,000 tweets ago. He was the first player to maintain his own blog on MLB.com and is always a vanguard of tech among those who suit up.
But these are changing times -- not just in tech, but for Wilson personally. During a visit Tuesday morning to the MLB Fan Cave, the Angels left-hander talked not only about his hair and his upcoming getaway start at Yankee Stadium, but also about his evolution in social media and starting a life with Brazilian model Lisalla Montenegro, whom he will wed after this season.
"It's evolved a lot from back then," Wilson said of Twitter, where his @str8edgeracer account has about 180,000 followers. "Initially, I looked at it as, 'Look at these other people I can get news from.' I was more interested in following other people. I wasn't so concerned about myself and who was following me or whatever. And as I got on it, I saw that there was value in that interaction, and the speed in which you can communicate, because really it's like a text message. It goes right to you. I thought that was pretty cool.
"Then as my profile increased a little bit, we went to the playoffs [in 2010-11 with Texas] and stuff, and then you see all these weird doors open up because of Twitter. I got to meet a lot of people through that. I met people I had admired, but I didn't have a chance to communicate with them at all. Now I've actually become friends with a lot of people who I've met on Twitter. It's a good way to keep up with people.
"Ironically, I'm trying to kind of pull back from some of the stuff, because I feel that now that I'm a grownup, I'm getting married, it's like really kind of a funny thing to think about myself as the veteran guy on the team," he added. "I remember when I was the young guy on the team."
Now 32, Wilson is one of those key veterans. He is three-quarters of the way through his second year of a five-year contract with the Angels, well on his way to another season of at least 200 innings and 30-plus starts. He has won eight of his last nine decisions, someone with a unique ability to focus on the field yet immerse himself in the tech landscape and sense where it's all going.
"There's going to be something that comes to replace Facebook and Twitter," he said. "It can't come soon enough as far as Facebook goes, because I think Facebook is a bad platform now, from a social-media standpoint. But I think Instagram is really cool, it gives people a chance to interact a little bit. There's not as much I would say back and forth as you get on Twitter, but it's a good way to experience someone else's life through their eyes, through their iPhone. And that's how we see everything now, is through that experience."
MLB Advanced Media has been a tech pioneer, driving the platform around him with such staples as MLB.TV and a suite of award-winning apps led by MLB.com At Bat. Social media has swelled beyond recognition since Wilson began tweeting.
On Facebook, there are a combined 37,165,694 likes on the MLB and club accounts, with 4,692,407 alone on MLB. On Twitter, there are a combined 10,687,949 followers of the @MLB and official club accounts, and 3,077,217 for @MLB alone. On Instagram, there are a combined 2,664,351 followers on the @MLBOfficial and club pages, with 517,417 on MLB alone. The Fan Cave's Facebook page and its @MLBFanCave pages on Twitter and Instagram combine for about 2 million followers.
Wilson said he would like to see tablets used more in baseball.
"It would be really funny if we were able to have one in the dugouts, so that the manager could really argue accurately, because then he'd get a replay right there," Wilson said. "We'll see what happens. I'll be on top of it, whatever it is."
Last week, Instagram followers could find a picture of Wilson and Montenegro at Disneyland. This December, it will be wedding bells.
"My whole life I've been looking forward to finding the right person, and I'm lucky enough to have Lisalla in my life," he said. "We're going to get married in December. I've converted her into a baseball fan. Brazilian people are traditionally not baseball people; they're soccer people. And racing people -- that's how we originally connected, the racing thing. It's great. She knows more about the game than a lot of my friends and family do now. It's neat. We look forward to hopefully a sunny day in December."
Wilson was between starts during his visit to the Fan Cave, looking forward to continuing his momentum in the 1:05 p.m. ET start on Thursday to close out the Angels' four-game series against the Yankees in the Bronx.
"I like pitching day games at Yankee Stadium," he said. "It levels the playing field for me, because I feel like there's no buildup. You just go straight to the game. I think pitching in Yankee Stadium is kind of intimidating in a lot of ways, because you know there are going to be 45,000 or 50,000 fans there. You know that the Yankees are always going to give you a good ballgame. They're always going to have tough at-bats, they're always going to have a lot of discipline. This is the hallmark of their club. So a day game, there might be guys who are like, 'Oh, I'm a little sore, I'm not going to play today.' Things like that. Hopefully I get a lineup I can get some whiffs with."
Speaking of whiffs, Wilson was at the Fan Cave for a media day event as part of his ongoing role with Head & Shoulders. In addition to the TV commercials, he stars in a series of "Good Happens" videos on the Head & Shoulders YouTube page, part of the company's ongoing "Season of the #Whiff" campaign, supported by MLBAM.
Wilson has been rallying fans to tweet the hashtag #whiff, and for every "whiff" secured during this season, Head & Shoulders is making a $1 donation to MLB's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program. Fans are encouraged to continue to support the program by tweeting #whiff plus your team Twitter handle for each strikeout. The club that secures the most tweets each month can score a $10,000 donation for its local RBI program.
"In a way, I get a little more nervous about my hair now, because people are paying attention to it," Wilson said. "Some people will yell, 'Head & Shoulders' at me ... but I take it as a compliment. I think it's funny. It's a very fun campaign to work with. ... It's a cool thing, because they're giving away money for strikeouts, and as a pitcher, I try to promote strikeouts. So it's good. Money goes to the RBI program and we raise money for kids to play baseball, which is just continuing the tradition, and that's what we really need to do."