Franchise wants Seahawks star's drive and desire to serve as an example
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- No, the Rangers don't expect Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to be their starting second baseman anytime soon. Rather, they'd like to be associated with him in some way. That is, they'd like for their players and coaches to be around someone with his drive and desire.
That's why the Rangers selected Wilson off the Rockies' roster in Thursday's Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels telephoned Wilson on Thursday morning to tell him about the move and wish him the best with the rest of his football season.
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Russell Wilson, 2B: Before he became an NFL star with the Seattle Seahawks, Wilson spent two seasons in the Rockies system. Signed for $200,000 as a fourth-round pick out of North Carolina State, he batted a combined .229/.354/.356 with 19 steals in 93 games, peaking in low Class A. While it was apparent that he almost certainly would wind up in the NFL, Wilson offered intrigue as an athlete with plus speed and arm strength and some hitting potential. He was understandably raw both offensively and defensively, but had the tools to possibly become a big leaguer had he decided to focus on baseball.
Where the relationship between Wilson and the Rangers goes from here is unclear. Wilson expressed an interest in coming to Spring Training, but Daniels didn't even bring up the possibility of him resuming his baseball career.
"I told him we're very respectful of what he's got going on," Daniels said. "It's obviously his No. 1 goal. We wanted to welcome him to the organization and [told him], 'Don't be insulted if you don't hear from us again until you're done playing.'
"We just don't want to get in the way of what they've got going on. He's excited, wants to come to camp to work out and be around the guys. It's open-ended. If he wants to get more involved in that, we'd certainly welcome it. I don't expect it."
Wilson said he thought he'd enjoy doing that.
"I'm sure I'll go down there for Spring Training and just talk to some of their players and hang out with some of them," he said. "That'll be kind of a cool experience, but that's down the road."
The Rangers decided to draft Wilson, who is on the Rockies' restricted list because of his football career, after long talks between Daniels and his baseball staff.
"Our scouts brought the idea," Daniels said. "We always talk about, not just in baseball, the great leaders, the great innovators, coaches, guys with elite level work ethic. We've used Bill Walsh a lot [as an example]. One of the guys the last couple of years we talk to our scouts about, the kind of makeup we're looking for, the type of work ethic, what wins: Russell Wilson. You read about this guy and hear people talk about him. He's off the charts in character and focus."
Said Wilson, whose team is tied for the best record in the NFL at 11-2, said he was surprised to get the call from Daniels.
"Funny story," he said. "So I get up this morning and I'm on my way to work and I get a call around 6:15 or 6:30. It's from Arlington, Texas, and I'm like, 'Who's calling right now?' So, anyways, I pick up and it's Jon Daniels, the GM for the Texas Rangers. Obviously they drafted me today; pretty cool thing."
Wilson last played baseball in 2011 with Colorado's Class A Asheville club, hitting .228 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 61 games as a second baseman. Since then, he has become one of the NFL's best quarterbacks on one of its best teams. He was the 2012 NFL Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowl selection. The Seahawks currently are tied with the Broncos for the best record in the NFL at 11-2.
"We decided if he ever wanted to play again, he'd be a guy that we'd want with us," Rangers assistant general manager A.J. Preller said. "The biggest thing that intrigued us on Russell from afar is the makeup, the way he goes about his business, the professionalism, the competitor. It's the message we try to preach throughout our organization. For us to at least have that as part of our organization, at the end of the day he obviously has a lot bigger things he's working on right now. We don't want to interrupt that aspect of it.
"If at some point down the road he decides he wants to do baseball again, we felt like it would be a positive to have him with us."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U.