When he's not busy winning Super Bowls, Russell Wilson moonlights as a baseball player. At least he did on Monday, spending time with the Texas Rangers after being taken in the Rule 5 draft last December.
He's an infielder, so you know I'm open to taking him over there [to a back field to work with him] if he wants to do it. But it's up to him.
Our intentions are to see if there's anything he can say that may help anyone around here that has on a baseball uniform
Wilson was never much of a baseball prospect, despite being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 2007 (41st round) and Colorado Rockies in 2010 (fourth round), so it's safe to say he made the right decision to play football.
He did have a good arm, obviously, but wasn't ever good enough to hit (.229/.354/.356) in the minors. His best path to The Show would have been as a reliever, which doesn't pay as well as being a quarterback.
Moment No. 1: Back in the swing of things
For one day, Wilson was a two-sport athlete along the lines of a Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson. We chronicled everything that happened during his day with the Rangers, starting with a look at his official uniform.
Since this is a golden opportunity for the Rangers to make a little money off their one-day acquisition, the team has put Wilson merchandise on sale at the spring training facility.
Russell Wilson Texas Rangers jerseys on sale at Surprise Stadium. pic.twitter.com/a5zYCi6yxP— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) March 2, 2014
It will be interesting if/when MLB reports jersey sales to see just how high Wilson climbs on the list. For the record, San Francisco's Buster Posey and New York's Mariano Rivera were atop the list last July, per MLB.com.
Based on the line to get into the Rangers' workout this morning, Wilson is the most popular baseball player in the world today. Who needs Derek Jeter's retirement tour when you have Wilson taking infield drills?
Moment No. 2: Handling the glove
Wilson appeared to be right at home in a baseball uniform in the early Arizona morning, working out with Washington and first baseman Prince Fielder.
Ron Washington and Russell Wilson at work on a backfield. Welcome to Spring Training! pic.twitter.com/5ucdkJFOxp— Richard Justice (@richardjustice) March 3, 2014
Talking with Prince after early work pic.twitter.com/sefuJ0vqeK— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) March 3, 2014
Wilson was always a solid defender as a prospect. He was Colorado's 19th-ranked prospect in 2010 by Baseball America, which cited "plus range with good hands and a solid arm" as his best assets before acknowledging he was still crude and needed more reps.
To give you a better feel for how Wilson did today, and how serious he was about being on the field, ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett posted a short video of his workout.
Some video of Russell Wilson working out with manager Ron Washington. http://t.co/Oz9Jv1U4nC— Richard Durrett (@espn_durrett) March 3, 2014
When you have an elite athlete like Wilson, it's tempting to throw them into another sport and see what they can do. Baseball doesn't have a reputation for requiring a lot of athleticism, except for shortstops and catchers, but even someone as good as Wilson would have problems in spring training after not playing for nearly three years.
Moment No. 3: The Character
Even though he's just 25 years old, Wilson has always earned high marks for his attitude and leadership skills. That was one of the main reasons the Rangers wanted to get him in camp for a day, to speak with the team.
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported that Wilson's speech took place on Sunday night and was exactly what you would expect from such a poised, confident, humble young man.
Yes, @DangeRussWilson spoke to Rangers at team function last night. Told it blew people away. Will report more today.— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) March 3, 2014
The #Rangers, who drafted Jameson Winston, have been blown away by Russell Wilsons character in his workout today— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) March 3, 2014
Grant later expanded on that point for the Dallas Morning News, writing that Wilson voluntarily showed up at Rangers camp on Sunday night to take part in a dinner with team sponsors before addressing the team.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told Grant about Wilson's speech, the message behind it and what pushes this young man to dizzying heights.
He talked sincerely about his faith, his family, playing both football and baseball, about graduating in three years because he promised his father he would and he talked about his struggles in baseball. One of his mottos is ‘Preparation is the Separation,’ and he discussed that with our guys, how he always feels like preparation is what separates you from the competition.
Hard to imagine interviewing a more civilized, focused person than Russell Wilson. My 1-on-1 runs on MLB Network @8 tonight. Loves our game— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) March 3, 2014
The more I read about Wilson's character, integrity and ability to command a room, the worse I feel about how little I actually do as a 28-year-old.
Moment No. 4: The Comedy
While having Wilson in camp is an opportunity for him to provide teachable moments to some of the Rangers' younger players, it doesn't have to be as serious as an infomercial for pimple cream.
It actually provided a lot of moments for comedy, at least in a few corners of the world. Some of them from the world of MLB, others parodying the world of sports and pop culture.
Indians manager Terry Francona, who will be in the opposing dugout for today's game, is thinking about breaking protocol for Wilson since he isn't an everyday player.
Something tells me that no one would argue with that, especially if the Indians wait until after the game is over and Wilson goes back to his normal life as an NFL quarterback.
The always-hilarious Not Buster Olney provided a spot-on parody of Washington's most famous line from the film version of Moneyball, though one that may have to be retired soon so it doesn't reach overused status.
OVERHEARD AT RANGERS CAMP: RUSSELL WILSON- "WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP IS NOT THAT HARD. TELL EM, WASH." RON WASHINGTON- "IT'S INCREDIBLY HARD."— NOT BUSTER OLNEY (@TRIPPINGOLNEY) March 3, 2014
This is actually one of the best uses of that line, simply because Washington's managerial style has led to vast criticisms on the Internet throughout his career, most notably in the 2011 World Series.
Moment No. 5: The final welcome
Unfortunately due to his NFL commitments, as well as not playing baseball professionally since 2011, Wilson is unable to step on the field for the Rangers during the game.
That didn't stop the Seahawks quarterback from getting on the field in front of the crowd and, per Richard Durrett, getting a huge ovation from the people.
Russell Wilson just emerged from #Rangers dugout to huge cheers. He's signing autographs down the first-base line.— Richard Durrett (@espn_durrett) March 3, 2014
Russell Wilson singing autographs before game at Rangers camp pic.twitter.com/qaSCdys3BA— Kyle Burton (@_KBurton_) March 3, 2014
Considering how well Seattle fans travel, it wouldn't be a shock if most of them were part of the Seahawks' 12th man moonlighting as Rangers/MLB fans. Why there would be people who don't love baseball is beyond me.
In addition to stepping out of the dugout to get an ovation, Wilson was also given the privilege of taking the lineup card to the umpires before the game started.
Russell Wilson sent out by Ron Washington to exchange lineup cards. pic.twitter.com/E5yr35q1vE— Pedro Gomez (@pedrogomezESPN) March 3, 2014
Usually a gimmick like this would wear thin, but Wilson has baseball experience and appeared to make the most of the situation. The Rangers were under no obligation to let him be in camp, though they felt his presence and personality would be good for the team.
Sometimes two powerful forces come together and make beautiful music. It only cost the Rangers $12,000 and they'll get a nice kickback on some of that Wilson merchandise sold, so a good day for both the team and player.
Final Moments: End of the day
When the Rangers game ended, Wilson took to the podium to face the media and answer questions about his experience and what he hoped to get out of it.
Based on his comments, courtesy of USA Today's Bob Nightengale, Wilson had a fantastic time and wants to send a positive message to others around the country.
Russell Wilson calls his day with the #Rangers "better than anything I imagined."— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) March 3, 2014
Russell Wilson says he inspires to get more African Americans playing the game of baseball— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) March 4, 2014
That last part is interesting, if only because Wilson is an NFL player who will likely be an ambassador for that sport before baseball. It's not to question his love for baseball, which certainly appears to be real, but how many times is he really going to be asked about baseball in the future?
If Wilson is able to use his profile to encourage African Americans to play the sport, by all means.
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