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Keep On Dreaming Russell Wilson, But Not About Baseball

Friday, April 17, 2015

 

Russell Wilson

There was quite a buzz last weekend on various sports outlets and on social media, stemming from the interview Bryant Gumbel of HBO’s Real Sports conducted with Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. In the interview, Wilson is quoted as saying that “{I} never want to kill the dream of playing two sports,” the second sport being professional baseball. And, he goes on to muse on the possibility that he just may give it a try “one of these days.”

As an inspiring and nostalgic narrative, the prospect of an athlete like Wilson playing two sports takes the casual fan back to images of Bo Jackson crushing home runs and running over linebackers or Deion Sanders using his tremendous speed to swipe a base or elude special team’s coverage to run back a punt for a touchdown.  But, what many seem to forget is that Jackson and Sanders had tremendous baseball talent and also never interrupted their baseball careers. 

Jackson was drafted first overall in the 1986 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but opted to play baseball with the Kansas City Royals. Sanders began his part-time baseball career with the New York Yankees in 1989, the same year he began playing for the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL. 

In Russell Wilson’s case, after playing two seasons in A ball for the Colorado Rockies, he was drafted in 2012 in the third round by the Seahawks and hasn’t seen live pitching since. So, at this point, Wilson is 26 (will be 27 by the end of this NFL season), an age when most baseball players are coming into their prime, and he hasn’t played baseball in almost four years. 

Baseball isn’t a game that you get better at by not playing it. There’s a reason even the best players usually spend a few years in the minors. Hitting a baseball is THE most difficult thing to do in all of sports. And, Wilson wasn’t very good at doing that when he turned his attention solely to football.

Many pro scouts and talent evaluators, including Keith Law of ESPN, have graded Wilson, who played 2B in college and with the Rockies, as very athletic, an average defender with a plus arm, who can’t hit. And the numbers bear that out. 

In 2010 with the Tri-City Dust Devils in short season A ball, Wilson played 32 games, had 143 PA, and hit .230/.336/.377 with 2 HR and 36 whiffs. 

The next year, with the Asheville Tourists of single A, he played in 61 games, had 236 PA, with a slash line of .228/.366/.342. He did show some speed, stealing 15 bases and only getting caught twice, but he also struck out 82 times, or a little over a third of all plate appearances. 

Since then, he’s been to two Super Bowls, won one, and hit exactly one home run at batting practice during his one day of Spring Training for the Texas Rangers. Or as Allen Iverson might say, “We’re talking about batting practice? Not an actual game, but batting practice?” 

Just like in the Clint Eastwood film, Trouble with the Curve, it’s just a fact that some very good athletes can’t hit breaking pitches at the major league level. When they can’t do it in A ball, it’s not likely to get easier by not playing for four years. So, while Russell Wilson’s “dream” makes for an enticing narrative, it’s not likely to ever become a reality. 

Stick to what you do very well, Russell, and focus on getting the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

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