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Interview: CJ Wilson – Racer, Pitcher, Petrolhead Part 1
GTspirit recently had the opportunity to speak with CJ Wilson, pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and all-around petrolhead. When CJ isn’t pitching, he’s attending to his cars, whether they be on track or in his garage. Oh, and remember all those unbelievable numbers you’ve been hearing about the new McLaren P1? CJ has one on order. So check out part 1 of the interview below, it’s quite a good one.
Andrew: Thanks for taking the time with GTspirit, CJ. Let’s go ahead and just dive right into it. Can you talk a little bit about what drew you to cars in the first place, besides the cool factor?
CJ: I mean my dad was on a pit crew for a race team when I was a kid; so I remember it from when I was five or six years old. So racing, and the passion and the effort that was put into it, it was something I fell in love with right away. I always like the design of super cars and fancy cars, but honestly a lot of that came from television.
You know, the generation I’m a part of looked up to Magnum P.I. because he had the cool Ferrari. Looked up to the Miami Vice guys because they had the Testarossa, and Steve McQueen because he had the Porsche and all that stuff, oh and James Bond with the Aston Martin. So I remember identifying with these sorts of super hero characters, or whatever, that they all had cool cars.
I mean, Batman had the Batmobile you know. So it was just something that I felt like I aspired to have, because the cool car would make me feel like a hero. And I’ve always been a fan of racing as well, and I think it all kind of ties together.
Andrew: Ya, I was going to say that’s how I kind of got into cars as well, just randomly finding a F1 race on Speed at two in the morning on a Saturday. Kind of got me going as well. That and McQueen.
CJ: My dad was really into racing and stuff, so we would watch the Formula One races on the Speedvision channel and stuff like that. So we would video tape them, and watch them later, because, like you said they are on at two in the morning or whatever, but you know, some races we would watch live they’d be at four in the morning or six in the morning or whatever.
So, I was always a fan of Formula One and Indy Car. I remember every year as a kid really looking forward to the Indy 500; looking forward to carb day, or whatever, and being super psyched on all that stuff. It was always something I was really drawn to. I could never really explain the genesis of it because it was always there, if that makes sense? There was never one moment. I just remember being constantly involved in racing, and I had the race car posters and the car posters on the side of my room.
And then on the other side of the room I had the, you know ambiguous baseball player posters as well. So, you know, it kind of all tied in together at that point.
Andrew: Just to get a little background: you were, if I remember correctly, born here in California. Is that right?
CJ: Yeah, I was born in Orange County and lived there my whole life really until professional baseball, and then I started moving all over the place.
Andrew: Knowing California and its car culture like us Californians so, did you have any interesting stories with cars growing up? Like your first car? Well, anything that you’re willing to share, that is.
CJ: I have a really funny story actually. In Newport Beach they used to have a Lamborghini dealership. I mean, they have a Ferrari dealership there now, but there’s like a little area right by the Balboa Bay club where they have always had exotic car dealerships like my whole life. And I remember my dad took us in there to go see the [Lamborghini] Countach …keep in mind we were [of] completely modest means. My dad drove like a used [Chevrolet] S-10 at the time. And my mom had a Honda Accord. We had no money, there was no “like hey maybe we’ll get one of these”. You know, it wasn’t anything like that. But the Countach was there.
This was probably like 1988, 1989. So the Countach was like really pimpin’. That was the big car out there. It was revolutionary, really. And, so, we went into the dealership and it had the scissor doors open. It actually had a velvet rope around it. You know, like a post and the velvet rope saying, “Do not touch”, and my brother, who is a year and a half younger than me, and he was like, “Whoahhhh!” , and just ran up and put both hands right on the fender and my dad was like, “get the F over here” and it was so funny! I respected the car so much I was just walking around it to look at it from different angles, like looking at the angles of the fender flares and looking at the angles of the bumper and all that stuff.
I was really interested in that. And my brother just wanted to touch it because it looked, it looked…well, it was just nothing he had ever seen before. So I was in there going this is bomb and all that stuff. It’s really funny, I’ve always, I mean I literally read little car encyclopedias as a kid and stuff. Even my doctor, when I was young, had the magazines in his office. You know like Car and Driver, Road and Track, and all that stuff. Now, I was only like five years old, but I had already been reading, y’know, all [the car magazines], and I was like “So, Dr. Anjelovic, what do you drive?” He goes “Oh I drive I drive a Honda.” And I was like, “Don’t you have like, a lot of money? Shouldn’t you be driving a Mercedes or a BMW or something?”
CJ: I was like giving him shit for driving an economy car. You know, it was so funny.
Andrew: Yeah. *laughter*
CJ: And my mom and dad love telling that story, because it just kind of shows just how kind of focused I’ve been like ever since I was just a little kid, to the point where I feel like if you’re successful, then there’s no problem with having a cool car, because that’s sort of one of the rewards of a successful career, y’know? Or for me it was more it was even a reason to be successful, because I wanted a car.
Part 2 of the interview with CJ coming soon! Once again, a personal thanks to CJ for agreeing to an interview. You can thank CJ on Twitter.