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SBD/March 4, 2014/Franchises

Russell Wilson's Spring Training Visit Proves Fruitful For Rangers' Players, Merch Sales



Selecting Wilson in the minor league Rule 5 Draft cost the Rangers $12,000
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson arrived at MLB Rangers camp on Sunday and turned "what could've been a hokey event into a worthwhile spring-training visit," according to Jerry Brewer of the SEATTLE TIMES. Wilson on Sunday night attended and "spoke for about 20 minutes at a team banquet for players, sponsors and suite holders in Scottsdale." He then arrived at the ballpark at 6:20am MT yesterday, "mingled with members of the Rangers organization and even participated in an early-morning session of defensive drills before the team’s practice." Wilson took "ground balls and threw the baseball," but he "didn’t hit, and he sat in the dugout and watched the Rangers’ Cactus League game" against the Indians. Wilson had "promised the Seahawks he would 'be smart' and not overextend himself" (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/4). ESPN DALLAS' Richard Durrett wrote it was for days like yesterday that the Rangers took Wilson in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft in December and "paid $12,000 to grab him" from the Rockies. The Rangers drafted someone "who likely wasn't going to play both sports, or give up his job as an NFL quarterback to play baseball again." But they "hoped he would want to come to spring training." The Rangers wanted "a young player -- Wilson is 25 -- who was at the top of his profession to talk with the club’s prospects about what it takes to be successful" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 3/3). In Dallas, Evan Grant writes the Rangers brought Wilson in as "a living, breathing example of what every more expensive motivational speaker has ever preached to sports teams." Wilson will "almost certainly never take an at-bat in Texas, but if one player -- young or old -- absorbed what he had to offer, the Rangers may get huge returns on their $12,000 investment" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/4).

BRINGING THE SPOTLIGHT: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale reports Wilson's appearance "drew 75 reporters and eight TV crews" to yesterday's game, with ESPN, NFL Network and MLB Network "angling for a slice of his crossover appeal." Rangers President of Baseball Operations & GM Jon Daniels joked, "Now, if we can just get Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Timberlake out here, we can take it to another level." Nightengale notes the souvenir shop at Surprise Stadium "sold out of the $30 Wilson T-shirts in 10 minutes, and by the end of the game only a few $125 Wilson jerseys remained." Wilson said of his baseball opportunity, "It's a great sport, a timeless sport. It's relaxing, it's fun. It's one of those things in the African-American community I wish that they would push more. Hopefully I can encourage people to do that" (USA TODAY, 3/4).
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