Yesterday, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the Texas Rangers. While it's difficult to entice a playoff-bound QB to the bottom rung of professional baseball, it did prompt some fun memories from Wilson's earlier days in the minor leagues.
It was a cloudy day at Everett Memorial Stadium when Wilson made his first pro sports appearance in Seattle. At 21 years old, the second baseman was approaching the end of his first season in MiLB after being selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 2010 amateur draft. He was passed over by the Seattle Mariners in the fourth round after they decided to go with a 21-year-old southpaw named James Paxton. Now, he was crouched at second base behind Single-A starter Chad Bettis.
The first five innings belonged to Bettis and his nemesis, 26-year-old right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen. Wilhelmsen out-pitched Bettis, staving off the Dust Devils with six strikeouts and one hit. Bettis, for his part, managed a respectable five strikeouts, three hits, and two walks in 4 2/3 innings of work.
In front of 1,541 Mariners fans, Russell Wilson was the first to strike. He snagged a triple off of Everett reliever Eric Thomas, driving home catcher Dustin Garneau for his fourth, team-leading triple of the year. An inning later, Wilson jacked up the score to 4-0 with a 2-RBI single while the Aquasox' defense began to unravel. By the end of the game, the Dust Devils were sitting atop a seven-run lead and their fourth win in a week.
Wilson's success was short-lived in the minor leagues. He ended his pro baseball career after the following season, abandoning the Asheville Tourists to pursue his dreams of playing in the NFL. When the Seattle Times' Larry Stone spoke with Asheville manager Joe Mikulik last year, however, there were only pleasant things to say about the young infielder's potential:
"No doubt in my mind, he eventually would have figured it out," Mikulik said. "He was getting better at squaring up pitches. At first he was real raw, and his swing needed some adjustment. There had to be a little overhaul. But he had an aptitude to pick up things a lot of guys didn't have."
Manuel said the upside for Wilson was as an offensive-oriented second baseman, or a "David Bell kind of third baseman."
Wilson's raw potential at the plate may have been his main selling point, but it was hardly the only impressive aspect of his pro ball skills. Earlier in the season, he showcased a little of his glovework against the Rangers' Single-A Spokane Indians:
What do you think: Is Russell going to ride out a long and fruitful career in the NFL, or will he return to MLB at some point?
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