BY JOHN ACE
I spoke to Mark Wiltse today for about 30 minutes about his recent — and sudden — retirement from the beautiful game.
Topics ranged from past achievements, (he noted winning the USL PRO Championship in 2012 and a victory against MLS’s San Jose Earthquakes in 2013 as highlights of his career) to the banter that he would get from his former teammates and fans alike to accepting the fact that he’s going to be moving on from the game that he knows and loves.
JA: So what’s going on? It all seemed a bit sudden?
MW: Yeah, I know… I am extremely grateful and thankful of (Battery Coach and GM) Mike Anhauser and (Club President) Andrew Bell… They’ve been great mentors and I look up to and respect them… (but) I got an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
JA: What is it?
MW: To give you the low-down on it, it’s called Bai. It’s a type of drink made from coffee bean extract, which has a lot of antioxidants. It’s a “refresher” that has the same amount of antioxidants as a whole bowl of blueberries. I was brought in to help market the drink in the North and South Carolina area…. I got my degree from the USC School of Business and always thought that if football never worked out, I would have something to fall back on, and now this is it.
JA: That was what I was gonna ask, if you’d gotten into any of this before.
MW: “Like I said, I got it as a Plan B, so that if football never worked out I’d have something to fall back on… Right now, at the age of 25, I expected to be going into MLS. And I never got that call… And in “football years” I’m not so young anymore. I’m grateful for the chance that Auggie and Andrew gave me, and I’ll always remember the fans and the great support the fans have given me over the years.”
JA: But even though you’re leaving, you’re not gonna be a stranger at the ‘Baud or anything, right?
MW: Absolutely. Luckily with this job opportunity I’m getting to stay in Charleston. I’ll make as many games as I can and you’ll see me in the bar and cheering on the lads after every big win, and all that. I won’t ever forget you guys.
JA: The fact that you say you never got the call surprises me, because a couple years ago, there was talk of you maybe making the jump.
MW: Well, that’s really nice of you to say, but I really never got contacted and I’m at the age where they’d have to give me a guaranteed contract, rather than get kids out of college that they can cut.
JA: That surprises me. I remember thinking to myself one night that you and Johnny (Wilson) were owning going up and down the wing and I said to myself “How are these guys not playing at a higher level?”
MW: Well, like I said, that’s really nice of you. I can think of many games, particularly the one against San Jose, where we went out and we felt invincible…. Cody (Ellison) came in the year after me, but that back line was together for a number of years. We were together for a long time, there was camaraderie we were a unit, strong. Invincible, like I said.
JA: When you decided to retire, I was thinking it may have been for your modelling. I see now, it’s not.
MW: I think a lot of people may have thought that. But my modelling was just a hobby, I wouldn’t give up soccer just for that. It had to be something that can give me more than what soccer could.
JA: While I’m sad you’re going, I have to congratulate you on taking the opportunity to try to better yourself in the long run. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision.
MW: Again, I appreciate that. And no, it wasn’t. I got the offer before Christmas and am just now making my choice. I thought long and hard on it, and I’m grateful for the chances the Battery have given me. They, especially Auggie, pushed me to be at my best every game so that I may reach that level of MLS and beyond. And even if we did get to Europe it would be tough for an American, because of the EU.
JA: Well, I wish you the best of luck at Bai, and when I see a commercial for it, I can say “HEY! I know the guy that helps run that!”
MW: Yeah! I hope so, and I hope you can get it soon.
And so, with that interview, I understand why he’s giving up his dreams as a footballer. It’s sad to see him go, but I’m happy that he has this chance to do good for himself. He’ll always be one of us, and by the sounds of things, he knows that full-well.