TAMPA, Fla. — Russell Wilson’s childhood visions became a reality Monday as he reported to the New York Yankees‘ spring training facility and donned the pinstripes for the first time.
Perhaps the highlight of Wilson’s arrival came when Yankees batting practice Group 2 took center stage. Wilson joined Yankees sluggers Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird for a few rounds of live hitting. Unofficially, Stanton paced the group with 15 total home runs, while Judge had 10 and Bird had eight. Wilson got on the home run leaderboard, too, eclipsing Sanchez by one with six long balls.
Although he took some soft toss over the weekend, Wilson, with his 31-ounce Louisville Slugger that had his name printed on it, said this was his first batting practice session in a while.
“This is what I’ve known my whole life,” Wilson said. “Now, I couldn’t just step on a basketball court. I wouldn’t be good at basketball, but baseball, it’s like riding a bike once you get back out there for me. It’s not an easy sport, though. It’s very, very difficult.”
Difficult or not, Wilson is enjoying being back around baseball.
“It’s definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” Wilson said about putting on a Yankees jersey for the first time, with a nod to Babe Ruth. “I tried to get No. 3, but I think somebody had it already.
“Ever since I was a young kid I always dreamed to be a Yankee. I always watched them. My favorite player was Derek Jeter growing up, watching him, his professionalism and how he played.”
Wilson’s late father, Harrison Wilson III, was a lifelong Yankees fan. Before he died in 2010 of complications related to diabetes, the elder Wilson hoped his multisport son might one day play for his favorite team.
“I always told my dad I’d be a New York Yankee, and now I’m here,” Wilson said.
Although Wilson is officially on the Yankees’ spring training roster, he won’t be playing in any games. Manager Aaron Boone has stressed that Wilson’s primary duty is simply to enjoy himself.
Before stepping into the cage, Wilson fielded ground balls at second base. In addition to making routine throws to first, he also worked on his double-play pivots with shortstop Didi Gregorius. Wilson told Gregorius it was his first time taking ground balls in a year and a half.
“I told him it does not look like it,” Gregorius said. “He did not look rusty at all.”
Despite the circus-like atmosphere that Wilson’s arrival at Steinbrenner Field has created, he told reporters in a news conference that his appearance here was sincere.
“Some people always, for me, get confused on ‘is this just a stunt’ or whatever. They don’t know me. If you really know me, baseball’s been part of my blood,” Wilson said. “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.”
Although he wants his players to pick Wilson’s brain about leadership, Boone has kept his charges to Wilson simple.
“I don’t want him to feel like he’s got to address this or do that. I want him to kind of come in and just kind of be himself, and get to know us and enjoy himself. A lot of our guys will benefit from him being in camp. It’s exciting to see how excited he is about being here.”
Yankees such as Oregon-born Seahawks fan Brandon Drury are ready to see how this week unfolds.
“The guy’s a winner,” Drury said. “Whether it’s baseball or off-the-field stuff. Even mental stuff … I know he’s really smart and he studies the game and he cares.”
Wilson, who played college baseball at NC State, was drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB draft by the Colorado Rockies. The Rangers acquired him from Colorado in 2013. Wilson spent parts of two seasons playing Class A ball in the Rockies organization before he was selected in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft by Seattle.
“I’m going to immerse myself in everything that they’re doing,” Wilson said of the Yankees. “I want to learn as much as I can and also compete as much as I can.”
ESPN’s Jenna Laine and Jon Scher contributed to this report.
Brewers infielder Kolten Wong returns from oblique injury in loss to Rockies
Second baseman Kolten Wong returned to the Milwaukee Brewers‘ starting lineup Friday night and singled in five at-bats in a 6-5 10th-inning loss to the Colorado Rockies after being reinstated from the 10-day injured list.
Wong, who had been sidelined by a left oblique strain, was back in the leadoff spot for the game at Colorado after a series of roster moves by the Brewers.
The team also selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Zack Godley from their Triple-A affiliate in Nashville.
To make room for the additions, the Brewers optioned infielder/outfielder Pablo Reyes and right-hander Eric Yardley to Nashville. Infielder Jake Hager was designated for assignment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
ESPYS 2021 vote — Best MLB Player
Welcome to the 2021 ESPYS presented by Capital One, where you, the fans, get to help decide the stars of the show (aka the award winners). The nominees for Best MLB Player feature some of baseball’s best hitters and best pitchers, and one who excels at both. Here are your choices: American League MVP Jose Abreu, National League Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer, NLCS and World Series MVP Corey Seager and hitter-pitcher sensation Shohei Ohtani. Place your vote and tune in to the ESPYS on July 10 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
MLB vaccination rates slow; no additional teams reach 85% threshold
NEW YORK — The pace of coronavirus vaccinations in Major League Baseball has slowed, with no additional teams in the past week joining the 22 that had already reached the 85% vaccination threshold for players and other on-field personnel.
Major League Baseball and the players’ association said Friday that 85.3% of tier 1 and tier 2 individuals had been fully vaccinated and 86.5% had received at least one dose.
Previous weekly announcements included just tier 1, and MLB said on June 11 that 83.5% had been fully vaccinated and 85.1% had been partially vaccinated.
Tier 1 includes players, managers, coaches, team physicians, athletic trainers and strength and conditioning staff.
Tier 2 includes ownership, front-office staff, travel staff, head groundskeepers and ballpark operations staff.
Once a team reaches 85% vaccinations among tiers 1 and 2, it has the option to apply loosened protocols to tier 2.
Among changes to protocols made Wednesday, all fully vaccinated players and staff can stop wearing masks in dugouts, bullpens and clubhouses. In addition, fully vaccinated players and staff may eat in restaurants without restrictions and attend sporting events as spectators at venues with government approved safety protocols, the commissioner’s office and players’ association said in a memo sent Wednesday night.
There was one positive test, involving a player, among 9,104 tests in the past week, a 0.01% positive rate.
So far this season, there have been 66 positive tests — 37 players, 29 staff — among 203,523 samples tested, a 0.03% positive rate. The positive tests are among 25 teams.
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