BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 04/13/2015

Seahawks’ Wilson keeps alive two-sport dream

Russell Wilson threw out a another tease, this one on HBO — he really wants to find a way to play baseball AND football. How about if he reduced his pay for permission to play?

Russell Wilson isn’t ready to give up his day job, but a sideline gig as a second baseman is OK with him. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Is Russell Wilson seeking to play two, or seeking leverage?

In an interview with HBO’s “Real Sports” airing April 21,  the Seahawks quarterback said again he has a desire to play pro baseball as well as pro football. Although there was little in his two-summer stint as a second baseman in the minor leagues to suggest he was a major league player, Wilson reiterating his desire now can be seen as a tactic in his effort to extend his Seahawks contract this spring.

“I never want to kill the dream of playing two sports,” Wilson said. “I would honestly play two sports.”

Host Bryant Gumbel pressed Wilson on what is preventing the 26-year-old from becoming the latest two-sport star.

“I don’t know,” Wilson said, shyly. “I may push the envelope a little bit one of these days.”

Wilson didn’t address specifically whether he would ask permission to play as part of his new deal with Seattle, but for the second year in a row, he attended spring training for a day with the Texas Rangers, who own his baseball rights. Wilson was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles out of high school and then in the fourth round by Colorado in 2010.

In two years in Colorado’s farm system, Wilson hit .229 in 315 at-bats.

But he is sincere about baseball. His desire to play a partial season in the minor leagues instead of playing spring ball at NC State irked coach Tom O’Brien sufficiently that he told Wilson, who graduated in three years, he had to choose between spring ball and baseball. Wilson chose baseball, played a short season and transferred to Wisconsin for his final year of college.

Most famously, Bo Jackson played 694 MLB games as an outfielder over eight seasons from 1986-94, and played 38 games as a running back from 1987-90 with the Oakland Raiders, joining the NFL team in midseason.

The Seahawks are highly unlikely to accept a part-time quarterback, and it seems nearly as unlikely that an MLB team would give one of its 25 roster spots to a player with little experience just for April and May.

Wilson could offer to reduce his compensation in exchange for permission to go to spring training and compete for a minor league job. But all pro sports teams contractually prohibit nearly any kind of competitive or recreational sports in the off-season because the risk of injury is too high for such an investment.

Then again, if Wilson forgoes enough salary under the cap to allow the Seahawks to improve the roster, there may be a bit of temptation.

The temptation may also be sufficient for the 49ers to compensate privately the minor league pitcher who hits Wilson in the hand with a pitch. Then again, Jim Harbaugh no longer coaches the 49ers.


  • RadioGuy

    I think Russ genuinely loves playing baseball, but I also think this is ultimately a negotiating ploy. There’s a big difference between taking a few grounders in practice during spring training and facing pitchers throwing in the mid-to-upper 90’s in a regular season MLB game, and I’m not sure a guy who hit .229 while never getting above low A ball is up to that level of competition.

    More power to him for wanting to play two sports, but Russell Wilson is not Bo Jackson (or even Deion Sanders) and he’d really hurt himself as a quarterback by not getting reps in with his teammates during training camp or learning new wrinkles to the playbook because he’s off playing in the Sally League. Football is where your money is coming from, Russ.

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      Most likely he would have a baseball career mirroring Micheal Jordan. I have always wondered though if Jordan would have made it to his brief big league appearance at all if he wasn’t so revered in Chicago. I still laugh at Randy Johnson saying just wait til Jordan has to deal with mister snappy coming at him at 95mph…he will be looking for a basketball.

      • art thiel

        That’s what being gone three years from baseball hurts most — the timing on MLB-class pitching.

      • poulsbogary

        That is a good point–why would he want to subject himself to needless ridicule?

        • art thiel

          Because he believes he will always succeed. Superior athletes are different than thee and me.

          • poulsbogary

            Mr Thiel, that gray area between believing you will succeed vs being overconfident. We have seen both sides from Russell. You mentioned Shakespeare earlier–would prefer that he- Russell- not tempt the sport gods.

          • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

            I suppose you always remember you 1st GF and perhaps even say what if from time to time. It struck me as odd when the SB win the hawks experienced had Wilson thinking directly afterward “Wow, and to think I could have been playing baseball “.
            Perhaps it is wishful thinking on his part but its apparent he has yet to get over his first love.If I were his friend I would advise him to put the what ifs to rest.You are making a ton of money.You have a chance for multiple SB wins before your career reaches its apex. Literally every football fan in America knows your the leader of the Seattle Seahawks.You got enough on your plate. But as Art mentioned the successful sports athlete sees nothing but success in his dreams and additional adrenaline to be had.

    • art thiel

      I think he knows all of that. But a full spring training and an April in AA ball may be all he needs for his jones.

  • ReebHerb

    Russell Wilson’s contract negotiation is not going smoothly. It will get done. It most likely will get done. Seattle loves him. He is okay with Seattle. Seattle sports fans, especially talk shows, have built a wonderful image for this man to adopt. Maybe, just maybe Seattle’s values and Wilson’s values aren’t the same.

    My gut guess is he wants first round pay for the last three years along with the salary going forward.

    • art thiel

      I’m glad you have a pipeline on the talks. You’re the first.

      He may decide to do what Andrew Luck did and play into his final contract year. Seahawks could be OK with that, given the salary cap help.

  • poulsbogary

    His numbers don’t bear any of this out. The dots don’t connect.

    • art thiel

      It’s about desire, not logic. Like Michael Jordan.

      • poulsbogary

        Desire and delusion–easy to mix them up.

        • art thiel

          Shakespeare would have been just another hack without those parts of human nature.

  • John M

    I know you miss the intriguing Jim H. Art, but he’s gone, we have to get over it. I think with Russ it’s a ploy instigated by his agent who is salivating about their looming big paydays . . .

    • art thiel

      Doubtful I’ll get over Harbaugh’s departure. The man is gold.

      Can’t wait for Wilson to play baseball and say, “The game is always 90 feet between the bases . . . “

  • jafabian

    While watching Will Ferrell jump from team to team in spring training and John Madden complain about him I realized it’s time for Wilson to put up or shut up about playing baseball. Despite the fact Ferrell’s play was for charity awareness Madden felt it didn’t have a place in the sport. So what is it when Wilson joins the Rangers? It’s starting to come across as self-serving and I don’t know if he’s denying a player a chance to make the Rangers with his spring jaunts on the team.

    How can his teammates take him seriously when he talks about preparation when he’s preparing for another sport? On a side note, what’s Colin Kaepernick doing with his time? He’s been working out in Arizona with QB coach Dennis Gile and Kurt Warner.