TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Russell Wilson’s head knows football was the right choice. Baseball still has his heart.
A 2014 Super Bowl champion quarterback with the Seattle Seahawks, the 29-year-old began a week of workouts Monday with the New York Yankees.
“Is this just a stunt?” he said. “I think that if you really know me, baseball’s been a part of my blood. It’s been a part of who I am and where I’ve come from and what I’ve done. When you see me make plays on the football field, a lot of that’s a direct correlation to baseball.”
Wilson hit six homers in 39 swings as part of a batting practice group that included Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, the top sluggers in the major leagues last season, plus Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird.
A middle infielder who hit .229 over 93 games at Class A in the Colorado Rockies’ system in 2011 and ‘12, Wilson became the Seahawks’ starting quarterback in autumn 2012. He was selected by Texas in the 2013 winter meeting draft and attended spring training with the Rangers.
Wilson was on vacation in the Bahamas early this month when he learned he had been acquired in a trade by the Yankees, his favorite team growing up. While the Yankees gave playing time to football players Deion Sanders and Drew Henson, they said Wilson will not appear in any spring training games; they want to observe his leadership skills, and he wants to soak up the attitude of a franchise with a record 27 World Series titles.
“There’s an aroma around here that I’ve got to figure out, and I can’t wait to learn more about it and use that for my football career,” he said.
Wearing pink sunglasses for BP, Wilson fell short of the fence in his first 17 swings with a 33-inch, 31-ounce Louisville Slugger, a personalized maple model H319C in black. He then hit three in his next four tries, cleared the left-field walkway and clanked his final drive off the center-field batter’s eye.
“It’s just cool being able to pick his brain, that was the coolest part for me,” Judge said. “When he’s working out, everything is for a purpose.”
Wilson was on the field hours early, working with shortstop Didi Gregorius. He and the Yankees were all smiles.
“Watching him take a ball from the outfield that was kind of an in-between hop and watching him moving his feet real well and create a longer hop, that’s a savvy good-player move,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
Wilson spoke to the team before batting practice about leadership principles and said Judge and Stanton would be tight ends if they played in the NFL. He wore No. 73 — his football number, 3, is retired by the Yankees for Babe Ruth and his baseball number in high school was 7, retired by New York for Mickey Mantle.
He said his great uncle wears a Yankees cap every day, even to Seahawks games.
“I was always a fair-weather fan. I loved watching the best players, the best teams play. So when I was growing up, playing football, it was the Green Bay Packers at one point, then it was the 49ers, then it was the Cowboys,” Wilson said. “But for baseball growing up, I was always a huge Yankees fan, and I think it was because I loved the process. I love watching winners win.”
Wilson has no intention to switch sports.
“I love playing the game I play now,” he said. “Being the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, I’m one of 32 men in the world that get to do what I get to do. It’s the best job in the world, and so for me I’m very passionate about that. And my focus is winning more Super Bowls, doing whatever it takes to do that.”
He doesn’t want to expand to a third sport and dabble with dribbling.
“I wouldn’t be good at basketball. But baseball,” he said, “it’s like riding bike.”
NOTES: Boone said he likely will break up Judge, Stanton and Sanchez with left-handed hitters in the batting order against most right-handed pitchers. Coming off left shoulder surgery, Judge is slated to play his first exhibition game Wednesday and in another Friday, both times in the outfield. ... OF Clint Frazier sustained a mild concussion Saturday while diving into a fence at Bradenton to deny Ryan Lavarnway an extra-base hit. Boone said Frazier likely will miss a few days but not more. “Foggy, that’s how I felt all day,” said of his condition Sunday.
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