Russell Wilson spent only a day with the Texas Rangers, but the Seattle Seahawks quarterback certainly left a favorable impression.
“He’s really smooth in the field, probably looked better than me,” third baseman Adrian Beltre said.
“We knew he could throw, we saw that during the Super Bowl, but he has really good hands and great footwork,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said.
But Wilson wasn’t able to showcase his ability in the Rangers-Indians game. He wanted to, of course, but the Rangers and Seahawks didn’t want to risk an injury.
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Instead, Wilson had to settle for early fielding drills using a pancake glove under the watchful eye of Ron Washington. Wilson then participated in the morning workout with the regulars, which included popup and double-play drills. Wilson received a rousing ovation from several Seahawks fans on hand every time he fielded a ball cleanly or turned a double play.
“He just won the Super Bowl,” Beltre said. “He’s bigger than life.”
It was a circus-like scene most of the day for the latest Super Bowl winning quarterback. More fans arrived for his morning workout than did for Yu Darvish’s first day two years ago.
After the game, he answered questions ranging from his interest in doing Dancing with the Stars (”It’s going to happen, the question is when it’s going to happen”) to comparing Washington and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll (”they both love to coach”) to whether it’s more difficult to hit a curveball or be hit by a 350-pound defensive lineman (”Hitting the curveball. Man, the ball is so small.”).
Wilson might have had the most fun during the game, though, after he delivered the lineup card. From the dugout, he loved hearing “Sea-hawks” chants from his football fan base affectionately known as “The 12th man.”
Wilson did have one concern.
“Hopefully the Dallas fans didn’t get too mad,” Wilson said, smiling. “It really is a special thing we have in Seattle. It was great.”
As far as baseball is concerned, Wilson said he misses the game and appreciated the Rangers giving him an opportunity to stay involved by drafting him in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft in December. He said his day in camp was “better than I could have ever imagined.”
Wilson doesn’t have any visions of becoming a two-sport star like Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson, although Sanders has encouraged him to do it. Wilson made it clear that football is his focus with the goal of becoming one of the all-time great quarterbacks.
But baseball is something that Wilson is still passionate about and it rubbed off on the players and coaching staff.
“Baseball is definitely in him,” Washington said.
Some within the Rangers’ front-office already knew that. They scouted him during his high school and college days and knew what kind of makeup he had.
Assistant general manager A.J. Preller said that Wilson projected as a player who could play the middle infield and corner outfield spots. With enough at-bats, Preller said, they felt he could hit enough to make it to the big leagues.
The biggest thing, however, were the intangibles Wilson had.
“His pregame effort, intensity stood out,” Preller said. “It’s definitely something you don’t see everyday the way he goes about his business trying to get better everyday.”
That’s why the Rangers were compelled to draft Wilson. They knew he wouldn’t give up a promising football career, but believed Wilson could still be a positive addition to the organization as a motivational speaker-type for the minor leaguers.
They selected him off Colorado’s restricted list for $12,000 with the intentions of him doing what he did Monday. At the time, however, Wilson had yet to win a Super Bowl and was not the star he has become.
But Wilson still made time in his schedule to come to camp. He told his story at the Rangers’ organizational dinner on Sunday night and met with the minor leaguers Monday night.
“He’s very well spoken and knows what it takes to win,” Matt Harrison said. “I would’ve figured some things out sooner than I did if I listened to someone like him in the minors.”
The visit proved to be just as rewarding for Wilson, spending time with proven big leaguers such as Beltre, Andrus and Prince Fielder.
“How poised these guys are, how relaxed they are, how much fun they have coming to work every day,” Wilson said. “It’s the same thing we try to do with the Seattle Seahawks. It really is.”