For the second straight year, Russell Wilson worked out with the Texas Rangers at MLB spring training — and even hit a homer.
SURPRISE, Ariz. — For the second straight year, Russell Wilson was a baseball player for the Texas Rangers for a day.
In front of about 100 spectators crowded around batting cages and practice fields – many clad in Seahawks gear – the Seattle quarterback participated in a morning workout with the Rangers Saturday.
“It’s an honor just to be here,” said Wilson, who played college baseball at North Carolina State and two seasons of minor league baseball in the Colorado Rockies’ organization before being drafted by the Seahawks in 2012. “Growing up as a little kid, I dreamed of playing two sports and I always played both. Just to be here and have this opportunity, I’m grateful. It’s truly humbling to be able to play with these big leaguers, guys like Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus. ”
Wilson took ground balls and participated in batting practice — and even hit a home run.
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“I haven’t swung a bat in about two years,” said Wilson, who a year ago had bypassed getting in the batting cage. “I lasered one out in left-center field. That was good. I stayed back and was able to drive it to left-center. It feels good hitting a home run. There’s something special about throwing a touchdown, because it’s so hard to get touchdowns, but getting a home run is a good feeling too.”
The Rangers selected Wilson in the Class AAA portion of the 2013 Rule 5 draft — he was eligible after having been part of Colorado’s organization for four years. Wilson made a similar appearance last spring training, suiting up for an early workout, taking only ground balls, and then sitting in the dugout during the game.
The Rangers drafted Wilson not so much as a baseball prospect, but as a motivator, bringing him in to share his experiences about his successes and failures while helping lead the Seahawks to the Super Bowl the past two seasons.
On Friday night, Wilson was the guest of a dinner put on by Rangers’ ownership along with other big league staff, including manager Jeff Bannister and several players.
“This is the first time I had the opportunity to have a conversation with him and he is an impressive guy,” Bannister said. “He is the guy you think he is. What strikes me is how earnest he is and at the same time, wants to be the best in the game. He also has an awareness of what it takes to be the best.”
Wilson admittedly fielded questions about the Super Bowl loss and his interception at the goal line. But to him, the difference in speaking to players after winning a Super Bowl and after losing a Super Bowl was minimal.
“I think having consistency in your perspective shouldn’t change it that much,” he said. “The idea of having a championship mindset never leaves. That hasn’t left me once. And that’s what I tried to express to the Rangers’ guys last night.”
It was the first time Wilson has talked to the media at-large since a couple days’ after the Super Bowl loss, when the Seahawks cleaned out their lockers. Since then, the team has traded center Max Unger to the Saints in exchange for all-pro tight end Jimmy Graham (as well as sending the Saints a first round pick while getting a fourth) and signed running back Marshawn Lynch to a contract extension.
“In terms of getting Jimmy Graham, to add him to our arsenal is going to be really tough,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be really exciting to have a Hall-of-Fame-type player, honestly. In terms of a tight end, Jimmy Graham’s one of the best to ever do it. To have a guy that’s so competitive and really wants to play and can’t wait to get going is exciting. He’s determined to be successful like the rest of our guys. He’s going to fit in perfectly.”
Graham will join Wilson and the rest of the offensive skill players and the linebackers and defensive backs for a week of 7-on-7 drills April 12-18, a session that Wilson organizes each spring prior to the Seahawks beginning their official off-season training program.
“I”m not going say the location, but we are headed out to a destination to where we can really focus on football and training,” he said. “That will be exciting.”
Wilson knows the Seahawks gave up plenty to get Graham.
“It’s a little saddening in terms of losing your center in Max Unger,” Wilson said. “He’s guy I’ve built a special relationship with. I told Max, I called him after the whole thing happened and said, ‘Max, at least you are going from one short quarterback to another (New Orleans’ Drew Brees).'”
But Wilson also knows that the re-signing of Lynch to a contract extension means the Seahawks will again have a physical, pounding back to key their run-first system and also make their play-action package that much more effective.
“To have a guy like a Marshawn Lynch, arguably the best running back in the league, he does a lot of great things for us and we are really excited about it,” “Wilson said. “We have a lot of respect for how he plays the game and how he goes about his business. You love playing with that guy, to have a guy that is so determined to be successful, I know he’s itching to play again. I am too. It’s great to have him back, for sure.”
While Lynch’s contract extension is signed and complete, Wilson’s next contract is still waiting to be determined. Wilson and his agent, Mark Rodgers, and the Seahawks are expected to soon begin intensifying talks toward an extension — the Seahawks have every intention of signing him to a long-term deal, hoping to get it done before the 2015 season. Wilson, though, said little when asked if he would like to get the deal complete before the season begins.
Wilson is under contract through the 2015 season but the Seahawks can sign him to an extension now that he has completed the third year of his initial four-year rookie contractdeal.
“In terms of my contract, I don’t really talk about that kind of stuff,” he said. “I love the game of football. I love playing the game of football. I try to put my best foot forward and I want to be the best to ever play the game. That’s the way I look at it. I’ve been fortunate to win a lot of games at such a young age and to be able to play with some great guys and have some great comeback wins and win a Super Bowl, and go to back to back Super Bowls. It’s been special. So that’s what I focus on. I focus on the next opportunity I have. The rest will come. I believe God is going to bless me. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I trust always. And I trust it’s going to work out the way it’s supposed to.”
Wilson has often said that baseball is his first love. He was drafted out of high school by the Colorado Rockies in fourth round in 2010 as a second baseman. While also playing football at North Carolina State, he played two seasons in the Rockies minor league system in 2010-11. He hit .229 with five home runs and 26 RBI in 93 games those two seasons with stops in Tri-Cities (Low-A) and Asheville (A).
While football is Wilson’s primary sport, he says he’ll always feel at home on the diamond — even if just for a day a year.
“Oh, all the time,” he said. “Any time I see the field, see the baselines, a double play, a home run hit, it has crossed my mind for sure. There’s always an itch for me. There always probably will be a little bit. I do love playing football and playing for that organization, the Seahawks.”
Here’s video of his press conference