Former UF standout Wilkerson hired as baseball assistant at JU

Boston Red Sox' Brad Wilkerson hits a grand slam home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the third inning of the spring training baseball game in Bradenton, Fla., Monday, March 9, 2009. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

By Garry Smits/Florida Times-Union

Brad Wilkerson is used to dual roles. He will fill two of them for the Jacksonville University baseball team.

JU coach Chris Hayes announced the hiring of the former University of Florida star and eight-year Major League Baseball veteran on Friday as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. Wilkerson has been the baseball coach at King’s Academy in West Palm Beach since 2015 and has been a coach for USA Baseball.

″[Wilkerson] is one of the most successful two-way players in the history of college baseball,” Hayes noted in a statement of Wilkerson’s role as a position player and pitcher for the Gators when he was a three-time All-American. “He was a great player, but is even a better coach. He knows the game and is a tremendous communicator. His passion, energy and work ethic are contagious and will be so beneficial for our guys.”

Wilkerson helped UF to the College World Series in 1996 and 1998 and became the first Gator to be inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012. He was the first player in college history to hit 20 home runs, steal 20 bases and win 10 games pitching in one season (1998), and finished with a career .381 batting average, 55 home runs, 214 RBI, won 26 games on the mound and struck out 292.

Wilkerson was the MVP of the World Junior Baseball Championship in 1995 and won a gold medal with the U.S. in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Wilkerson was drafted in the first round in 1998 by Montreal and was the Sporting News rookie of the year after hitting 20 home runs and batting .266. He hit the last home run in Expos history in 2004, and after the team moved to Washington, he had the first hit in Nationals history and became the first player in team history to hit for the cycle.

He later played for Texas, Seattle and Toronto before retiring in 2009 with a career .247 average and 122 home runs.

“Brad is a winner, All-American, Olympic Gold Medalist, First Round Draft Pick and eight-year big leaguer,” Hayes said. “His experience will serve as a tremendous resource for our players and he is a great fit within our program and culture.”