Now batting for the New York Yankees…Russell Wilson.
No, you read that right. The Seattle Seahawks quarterback has spent some of his football offseason in Florida, suiting up with the Yankees during the early days of Spring Training after he was traded to the squad in February. You read that right as well.
Here’s everything you need to know about Wilson’s career in pinstripes and his time on the diamond:
1. Wilson Took an At-Bat in the Yankees Spring Training Game Against the Atlanta Braves
After spending a week at Spring Training, Wilson finally got his moment at the plate – taking an at bat during the Yankees matchup against the Atlanta Braves.
Although the Yankees previously said Wilson wouldn’t be playing in any games – he’d been taking batting practice and fielding with the team – early reports suggested the quarterback would come into the game late and see some live action.
2. He Was Traded to the Yankees in February
The Yankees have always had a reputation for signing the biggest names in baseball, but on February 7, the Bombers brought in a player no one expected – Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
The squad announced it acquired Wilson from the Texas Rangers in exchange for future considerations and it didn’t take long for the jokes to stat rolling in.
Wilson already had experience in Spring Training – he participated in workouts as a second baseman with the Rangers in 2014 and ’15 – and it didn’t take long for the Yankees to announce a similar plan. New York general manager Brian Cashman released a statement, saying:
We’ve admired Russell’s career from afar for quite some time. This is a unique opportunity for us to learn from an extraordinary athlete who has reached the pinnacle of his profession. After talking to a number of our players, there is a genuine excitement in having Russell join us for a short time in camp. We are all looking forward to gaining insight into how he leads teammates toward a common goal, prepares on a daily basis for the rigors of his sport, and navigates the successes and failures of a season.
Of course, Wilson’s signing with the Yankees wasn’t quite as impressive as his latest deal with Seattle. The Seahawks quarterback won’t turning in his football for a baseball any time soon after his most recent contract guaranteed him $61 million, with an average annual value of $22 million.
3. Wilson Was a Fourth-Round Pick by the Colorado Rockies
Russell Wilson, baseball star.
It very easily could have happened if the future Super Bowl champ had made a different decision. Wilson, a fourth-round pick by the Rockies in 2010, was well-regarded in the baseball world after a solid career for North Carolina State. Texas Rangers area scout Chris Kemp told ESPN in 2014:
I was watching batting practice, and he’s laying out in center field and jumping up against the wall to catch balls. Then he’s sprinting to shortstop when the groups switched and scooping up balls there. I’d never seen anybody get after it in pregame like he did…I thought he could be a super-utility guy and be that 12th guy offensively that could play second, short and even center. I do think he could have been a major league player. An everyday guy? I wasn’t so sure. But I knew he could have a role on a big league team. His work ethic was a separator.
Wilson went on to play two seasons for the Rockies’ Class A affiliates – the Tri-City Dust Devils and the Asheville Tourists, posting a career batting average of .229 with five home runs, 26 RBI and 19 stolen bases. Then, however, he made the switch to football.
He was selected by the Rangers off the Colorado roster in the December 2013 Rule 5 draft and made a pair of one-day appearances at the team’s Cactus League complex in Arizona in 2014 and 2015. Wilson told HBO’s “Real Sports,” he “never want to kill the dream of playing two sports,” but knows it would be difficult to compete at the top level in both baseball and football.
Wilson might not have become the baseball star he could have been, but he seems pretty content with his career on the gridiron.
4. He Said Playing With the Yankees ‘Is a Dream Come True’
This was no publicity stunt.
Wilson barely stopped smiling during his stint with the Yankees during Spring Training and while some naysayers may have been quick to point out he didn’t belong in pinstripes, the Seahawks star has been living out his dream. And maybe leaving a few Yankees star struck as well.
“I said, ‘Hey man, did you bring a football?’,” Aaron Judge told USA Today. “He says he’ll have one by the end of the week, so you might catch us out on a back field running some routes.”
Wilson didn’t waste much time getting out on the field either. He hit batting practice with the team and took grounders at second base, showcasing the kind of athleticism that helped him lead Seattle to Super Bowl glory.
Wilson has been around baseball his entire life, but he was quick to point out that he had a special spot for the Yankees saying they were “the team I loved. The is the team I had a passion about. To wear the Yankee cap, to put this uniform on is a dream come true.”
Of course, it’s not unheard of for teams to bring in big-name stars during Spring Training. Will Ferrell played for 10 different Cactus League teams in a single day as part of a Funny or Die skit, while other Hollywood stars like Kevin Costner, Tom Selleck and and Billy Crystal, who spent his 60th birthday with the Yankees, suited up for their favorite squads.
Wilson, however, is a bit different. He was there for the workouts and the games as much as anything, determined to get better in a sport he’s always loved. “Some people for me, get confused: ‘Is this just a stunt?’ They don’t know me,” he told USA Today. “If you really know me, baseball is a part of my blood. It’s part of who I am and where I come from and what I’ve done.”
5. Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll Joked About Wilson’s Performance
Let’s just say he’s not worried about his QB quitting his day job.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who was in Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine, was asked about Wilson’s play with the Yankees and was quick to make a joke at his star player’s expense. Carroll told media:
So far he’s not doing a great job going with the pitches away from him, and we’re hoping that he’s going to start putting the ball into right field a bit more and going with the pitch. Aside from that, the curve ball is still giving him a problem like it always did back in the day, so we’ll see what happens.
Although Carroll’s response garnered its fair share of laughs, the Seahawks coach – and the Seahawks organization – have been quick to deflect a response regarding Wilson playing with the Yankees during Spring Training. Carroll did, however, tell media he was glad to see Wilson surrounded by other top-tier athletes. And, if he got in some conditioning at the same time, even better.
“He’s going to be working out and doing something anyway. He reports in impeccable condition. he’s extraordinarily dedicated to doing everything he can to be right, I don’t think at this early stage right now, they’re not in the program here, there’s a lot of free time and guys have to do their thing,” Carroll said. “Some guys are maybe traveling around the world, he’s playing baseball. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that at all.”