SURPRISE, Ariz. — Russell Wilson may not see the field during a Texas Rangers spring training game, but his planned Monday appearance with the team in Surprise will be more than just a novelty for at least one Rangers player.
Infielder Brent Lillibridge, a Rangers non-roster invitee, is a native of the Seattle area and a huge Seahawks fans. As quarterback, Wilson helped lead the Seahawks to the Super Bowl title earlier this month.
“It was probably the most boring Super Bowl of all-time but for us ‘Hawks fans it was unbelievable,” Lillibridge said. “I’m a huge fan.”
Lillibridge hopes to get a picture with Wilson, who will be in uniform and go through morning workouts and will be in the dugout for the Rangers’ spring training game with the Indians at 2 p.m. Monday.
Don’t expect Wilson, 25, to see the field or pinch-hit, Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
“The guy is a Super Bowl champ. You think they want him to come down here and get hurt?” he said.
Washington said it was Wilson’s — or the Seahawks’ — decision for him to not take an at-bat. But Washington wasn’t interested in taking an at-bat away from one of his players trying to earn a roster spot.
“The guy hasn’t had any (baseball) work at all. No, no way. He hasn’t seen a pitch. I’m not running him up there,” Washington said.
Wilson has some Class A experience while in the Rockies’ system in 2010-11. Texas selected him in the Triple A phase of the MLB Rule 5 Draft in December.
For Lillibridge, it’s a moment to meet a Seattle hero, albeit one who is five years younger.
“I know he’s going to be hounded and it’s kind of a unique situation what he’s doing, especially a Super Bowl champ coming here and strapping it on as a baseball player for a little bit,” Lillibridge said. “It’s cool he has the time to do it and I’m looking forward to at least shaking hands and hopefully having one of my jerseys signed.”
He wouldn’t mind seeing Wilson taking some hacks at the plate, as long as it’s not one of his at-bats.
“Knowing him he’s probably in the cage right now making sure he’s not going to look too rusty when he comes out here,” he said. “I’m sure he’ll get some swings. I’ve seen guys that have never played baseball get some swings. If it’s my at-bat? No. But, yeah, it would be fun, obviously, for the fans, and there will be a lot of buzz about that but it’s not really going to change our focus and what we’ve got to get done. It will just be a cool thing to be a part of for however long it is.”
Washington said Wilson’s visit is more about words of wisdom he might have for Rangers players about competition.
“To see if there is anything he can say that can help anyone around here that has on a baseball uniform,” Washington said. “This guy’s a winner. He has tremendous character, he has attitude and undoubtedly has a lot of commitment to what he does,” Washington said. “And that’s what we’re about. We just want him to feel comfortable. Just bring him in, get acclimated, let him meet some of the guys and maybe speak to them and just enjoy his day at the ballpark.”
In his second spring training at-bat as a Ranger, Prince Fielder ripped a fastball for a home run to right field. Not a bad way to start your spring, especially for a new team.
“I just got lucky, (he) threw it where my bat was going,” Fielder said, who had 25 home runs for Detroit a year ago. “Yeah, it’s a good feel-good, obviously they don’t count, but they’re definitely good for you mentally,” Fielder said.
Fielder said he wasn’t trying to work on anything special with his two at-bats Thursday.
“I just wanted to see the ball and hit it hard,” he said. “All the technical stuff, I try to save for the batting cage and everything. During the game you just try to play baseball, try to be natural about it.”