Rangers happy with dose of Super Bowl champ Wilson
Selected in Rule 5 Draft, Seattle Seahawks quarterback makes stop at spring camp
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Texas Rangers saw it as a unique opportunity to bring an athlete with special talent and even more special drive into their organization. To them, it was a no-brainer.
"This is the kind of guy you want to be associated with," general manager Jon Daniels said. "Guys like that have success at whatever they do."
So there was Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, wearing a Rangers uniform, trotting onto a backfield Monday morning to take part in infield drills with Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre, etc.
Wilson took ground balls from manager Ron Washington, worked on his footwork around second base and then delivered the lineup card to home plate before an exhibition game against the Indians.
Wilson also spoke to one group that included several veteran players and another with rookies.
"I just shared my experience," Wilson said. "Just talk to them about the preparation, how the mental focus is, and how you great ready for a season that's such a big season and everyone has high expectations and all those things."
After spending the game in the dugout, Wilson returned to his life as the quarterback of the Super Bowl champions.
"Hopefully, our guys get something out of it," Daniels said, "and he gets something out of it, too."
This idea was born before Wilson won last month's Super Bowl. That was back in December, when the Rockies left Wilson unprotected in the 2013 Rule 5 Draft of Minor League players. He played 93 Minor League games in 2010 and '11 before devoting himself to football, and the Rangers doubt he'll play another professional baseball game.
But as the Rangers studied the list of available Minor League players available, they began to discuss Wilson. One of Texas' Minor League managers, Joe Mikulik, had been one of Wilson's managers in the Minors.
The Rangers didn't want Wilson to play, but perhaps to visit camp and to give a baseball team insight into how he has achieved so much so quickly. At 25, Wilson has played two NFL seasons and already has a championship.
"[Joe] said [Wilson] was the first guy there every day, extra work, wanted to figure it out," Daniels said. "He felt like if he'd committed to baseball -- he only had 300 professional at-bats -- he would have figured it out. He was on the verge of turning that corner."
And through the years, in researching Wilson for the First-Year Player Draft and following his career, the Rangers were blown away by his professionalism, commitment and smarts. Daniels decided that the $12,000 price to draft him from Colorado's roster might be an investment in having him spend some time around the Rangers.
"Any time you have a champion out there working out with you, it's a good thing," Fielder said. "He's just an athlete. You can tell. You can learn plenty from a guy like that."
Back in December, the Rangers envisioned Wilson spending a few days in camp with the idea of Texas' players picking Wilson's brain about his preparation and work ethic. Winning the Super Bowl shortened Wilson's time with the Rangers to one day on the field. To the Rangers, there was something to be gained from even that.
"It was a nice experience," Beltre said. "Just to have a guy like that that's just won a championship is probably good for the guys. It's good to hang around with someone like that and see if we can pick up something."
Wilson was originally scheduled to show up on Tuesday, but he arrived a day early and called the experience "unbelievable."
For Daniels, it's a relationship worth the $12,000 investment.
"I think some people thought it was a P.R. stunt," Daniels said. "Some people probably do still think that. That was never the intent. First of all, if he ever chose to play baseball again, we'd love for it to be with us. I think there's a minuscule chance. He's not bad at what he does. Whether it's staff or players or all of the above, the competitiveness, the preparation, his back story, what he's overcome, his focus -- all of those things we think we'll benefit from being around.
"The interesting thing listening to him last night is that he's looking to get something out of it. He wants to see how Wash runs his drills. He wants to talk to Yu Darvish, Adrian Beltre. He wants to be associated with, as he said, 'a championship organization.' I think there's going to be an exchange there.
"He's a unique individual. Special makeup. You don't do the things he has done without that. You don't graduate in three years while playing football and baseball and taking your team to the Rose Bowl. You don't do those things unless you're at a different level."
When the Rule 5 Draft kicked off at 9 a.m. ET on Dec. 12, the Rangers fretted about how early they could telephone Wilson to inform him that they'd selected him. His baseball agent, Mark Rodgers, told them not to worry.
So at just after 6 a.m. PT, the Rangers found Wilson already in the weight room, and as Daniels said, "That kind of fits in with everything you hear about him."
"He was talking yesterday at that sponsorship dinner about some of the things the Seahawks did," Daniels said. "They brought Bill Russell, [who won] 11 NBA championships, in and had him speak. I don't know if it's dawned on him that he's in that role for us. Hopefully, it's a reciprocal benefit for him. We want him to get out of this anything he can."
Likewise, Washington was impressed after his session with Wilson.
"It goes back to aptitude," Washington said. "You give him something, he applies it. He proved that by becoming a Super Bowl champion. His attitude and commitment to what he does is important. That's why he's the athlete that he is. That's why he's where he is in life. He's prepared and has attitude. Plus, he has tremendous character."
Wilson ran down his daily schedule for Washington, a list that includes weightlifting, video study, meetings, practice and attention to such details as nutrition.
It's funny how high-achieving athletes seem to have a common thread.
"If you have that drive, you want to do whatever you can to help your team win games," Beltre said. "A guy like that, I don't think he had to overcome a lot of things. He's a little short, not your typical quarterback. He has shown everybody he has the heart to do his job better than almost anyone."
And if Wilson ever did decide to give baseball a try?
"He can probably be as good as he is as a football player," Washington said.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.