By Drew Davison Fort Worth Star-Telegram
SURPRISE, Ariz. — Russell Wilson spent only a day with the Texas Rangers, but the Seattle Seahawks quarterback certainly left an impression.
“He’s really smooth in the field, probably looked better than me,” third baseman Adrian Beltre said.
“We knew he could throw. We saw that during the Super Bowl, but he has really good hands and great footwork,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said.
Wilson reported to the Surprise Recreation Campus early Monday and went through pre-workout fielding drills using a pancake glove with other minor-leaguers, such as Luis Sardinas and Rougned Odor, under the watchful eye of manager Ron Washington.
Wilson then went through the morning workout with the regular infielders, which included popup drills and turning double plays. He received a rousing ovation from several Seahawks fans on hand every time he fielded a ball cleanly or turned a double play.
It became a circus-like scene for the Super Bowl-winning quarterback with more fans arriving for his morning workout than did for Yu Darvish’s first day. During the game later that afternoon, a couple “Seahawks” chants broke out.
“There were more Seattle fans than Rangers fans; that was pretty awesome,” Andrus said. “We know how crazy fans are, especially with football here, and he was the champion.”
Said Beltre: “He just won the Super Bowl. He’s bigger than life.”
As far as baseball is concerned, everyone believed Wilson had the natural instincts and talent to succeed in the game if he stayed with it.
“Baseball is definitely in him,” Washington said.
Wilson did not take batting practice, though, and only participated in the game by delivering the lineup card beforehand.
The Rangers acquired Wilson in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft in December, selecting him off Colorado’s restricted list for $12,000. Wilson was the Rockies’ fourth-round draft pick in 2010 and played two seasons in their minor-league system before pursuing football full time.
The Rangers knew of Wilson’s makeup and ability, scouting him during his high school and college days.
“As a baseball player, we felt like he had a chance to be a guy who could move around the infield and also play some outfield,” assistant general manager A.J. Preller said. “Obviously, he had athleticism, and I think swing-wise, we thought the bat was going to be something where the more at-bats he got in pro ball, he’d hit enough to play.
“The biggest thing that stood out was pregame effort, intensity.”
Wilson’s drive and work ethic is the underlying reason the Rangers selected him in December. They knew he wasn’t looking to give up football but felt he could have a positive influence on the organization by speaking with the minor-leaguers on what it takes to succeed at a young age.
Wilson told his story at the Rangers’ organizational dinner on Sunday night and was expected to meet with the minor-leaguers after Monday’s game.
“He’s very well-spoken and knows what it takes to win,” pitcher Matt Harrison said. “I would’ve figured some things out sooner than I did if I listened to someone like him in the minors.”
Said Washington: “He draws attention because he’s such a personable guy, great character guy. He’s well prepared in what he’s doing. He’s special.”