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  • The star quarteback's baseball rights, previously owned by the Texas Rangers, were traded to the New York Yankees for future considerations
By Peter King
February 07, 2018

Pretty cool line in Transactions, if your local paper will have it Thursday morning:

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
TEXAS—Traded 2B/SS Russell Wilson to the New York Yankees for future considerations.

The future considerations, basically, are that the Rangers did the Yankees a solid. Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks Pro Bowl quarterback, played parts of two seasons of minor-league baseball late in his college career and never got baseball out of his system. He’s made a couple of cameos in Rangers spring-training camp. But his heart has always been with the Yankees, and so the Rangers sent Wilson’s right to the Yankees Wednesday afternoon. He’ll likely spend a few days this spring in Yankees camp in Tampa.

This is not the first step in becoming this era’s Deion Sanders, a baseball-football player. It’s more of a way to re-energize his off-season training and get him back to his sporting roots. Wilson will try to soak in some knowledge from Yankees players and the storied franchise, and he’ll speak to some of their major- and minor-league players as well. It shouldn’t have much impact on his off-season football training.

“The reason this is so special to me,” Wilson told The MMQB in a telephone interview, “is that I used to always tell my dad I always wanted to be a Yankee. I said to him, ‘Some day, Dad, I will be a Yankee.’ And so now that dream has come true—a little bit. My main, No. 1 focus is winning Super Bowls and winning football games. But the reality is that baseball has always been a major part of my life, and I couldn’t be happier to be keeping that alive with the Yankees.”

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The combo platter of baseball and football began for Wilson when he was about 8. He and his brother would go out with their father many mornings near their Virginia home. “My dad would hit us grounders at 5:30 in the morning. I’d play with my brother. He’d pitch me BP, my brother and I would switch places and each do the same. Then we’d go straight to the football field. We’d throw out routes, go routes, speed routes, then deep post routes and go balls and slant routes. I’d do that all the way up to 7, 7:30 and then I’d take a shower and go to school.

“That’s the way I grew up—both sports being a huge part of my life. The work, the discipline, to get better at both always. That’s where my ‘No time to sleep’ [ethos] started.”

Wilson’s dad died in 2010, but his great uncle Al is alive. He’s a Yankees fan who lives in New York and, according to Wilson, wears his Yankees hat every day. Uncle Al, who took Russell to the old Yankee Stadium years ago, was swooning over this news Wednesday.

“Derek Jeter is my favorite baseball player of all time, really my favorite athlete. Derek Jeter and Michael Jordan,’’ Wilson said. “I will never forget in the playoffs against Oakland, that ball hit down the [right field] line, Jeter runs all the way over to get the cutoff throw, flips the ball to get the guy at home. I used to practice that play. I can still see it today.”

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Wilson was assigned to the Yankees’ Double-A team in Trenton, but that’s a technicality. He’s not coming to camp to make a team. “This is a unique opportunity for us to learn from an extraordinary athletes who has reached the pinnacle of his profession,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said in a statement.

Wilson said he used the same principles that help him play quarterback at a high level in baseball. “Fourth-quarter comebacks have been huge for me in football, and baseball is a huge part of them for me mentally,” he said. “Playing quarterback, I’ve felt there's no greater sport than baseball to teach you the focus. You can play with an edge, you can play with intensity, but you can play with a sense of calmness. To be able to sustain mentally, the mindset is everything. I used it in the Super Bowl we won. I use it to this day. And the techniques. When I played middle infield, throwing on the run to first base is so similar to how you have to get out of the pocket sometimes in football, get on the edge, and make an accurate throw when you’re moving.”

Wilson said if he can learn “one or two or three things” from his time with the Yankees, it’ll be worth it. “My goal is to help myself in football—the mental side of the game, learning from a 27-time world championship team and being around such great athletes. There’s something to their story. I want to know what it is.”

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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