It was arguably the quarterback’s biggest throw of the offseason.
No, it wasn’t some overhyped rep in an OTA or some meaningless route in mini-camp.
On June 7, 2013, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Seattle Mariners game.
Like most of the throws he’s attempted since coming to Seattle, Wilson’s toss was a strike. Not only did he get it over the plate but he brought the heat. Safeco Field clocked his throw at 98 mph.
Did the Seahawks field general really approach triple-digits on the radar gun? Probably not. When the first pitch was replayed on television the Mariners announce team said he threw around 75 mph. They also said it was a bit outside.
Don’t tell Wilson that. With a wide smile and eyes full of boyhood pride, the quarterback gestured that he caught the corner of the plate. The announcers did say, and you can see it for yourself in a replay, that Wilson’s fastball has a lot of movement.
On their Twitter account, the Seahawks posted a picture of Wilson with his arm around Mariners ace Felix Hernandez and in the background the scoreboard boasts “98 MPH.” The team wrote: “We’re not saying it happened. But this happened.”
Speaking of Twitter, earlier in the day Wilson tweeted that he was throwing out the first pitch at that night’s Mariner’s game versus the New York Yankees and asked “which one of the #BronxBombers wanna face this!!?”
Before the game, Wilson met Yankees manager Joe Giradi and revealed that he was a Yankees fan as a kid. If he keeps leading the Seahawks to the postseason Seattleites won’t hold that against him.
Wilson is no stranger to the pitching mound. In college, he pitched and played second base for North Carolina State. In 2010, he was drafted in the fourth round by the Colorado Rockies.
In 2010, he played 32 games at second base for the Tri-City Dust Devils, and the following year, 61 games for the Asheville Tourists. Both are Rockies farm teams and both are in Class A leagues. Combined, Wilson hit five home runs, 15 RBIs, and batted around .230—with those kinds of numbers he can bat cleanup for the Mariners.
In early 2012, he informed the Rockies that he wasn’t going to pursue a career in Major League Baseball.
The Rockies loss turned out to be the Seahawks gain.
Seattle drafted Wilson with the 75th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
The former Wisconsin Badger started his rookie season in training camp as the third-string quarterback behind Matt Flynn (the heir apparent) and Tarvaris Jackson (the incumbent). He finished his rookie season going 8 for 10 and throwing 3 touchdowns in the 2013 Pro Bowl.
Wilson led the Seahawks to the playoffs where they defeated the Washington Redskins 24-14 in the NFC wild card round. The win gave Wilson as many playoff victories as veterans Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, and Matt Schuab.
The following week, Wilson rallied the Hawks in the NFC divisional round but was clipped by a late Atlanta Falcons rally, 30-28.
That’s not all Wilson achieved during his rookie campaign. He set the rookie record for passer rating (100.0), tied Peyton Manning’s record for most touchdown passes by a rookie, and rushed for 489 yards, a franchise record for quarterbacks.
The 24-year-old finished third in the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year race behind Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck. By the way, those two quarterbacks were the first two picks in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Seahawks fans have been here before. Rick Mirer set records for first year quarterbacks and was named the UPI AFL-AFC Rookie of the Year in 1993 only to be traded to the Chicago Bears three seasons later. He just never got better.
Is Wilson the second-coming of Mirer?
Since coming to Seattle, Wilson’s trajectory has been going nowhere but up. He studies. He works hard. He gets better. His career won’t stall like Mirer’s did.
If you need additional proof just consider this: to throw out the first pitch Wilson brought along his wife, Ashton, and his quarterback coach, Carl Smith.
I don’t have any inside information. I can only speculate. Maybe Smith was just in the right place at the right time. Or maybe Smith spends so much time coaching Wilson that they’ve become close friends. Maybe the coach and player are so consumed with football they don’t have time to cultivate other friendships.
Yes, it’s a wild conjecture. I realize I’m making a huge assumption, but knowing the work ethic and character of Wilson it wouldn’t surprise me if my hypothesis was correct. Even so, you’ve got to love a quarterback whose entourage is his wife and his position coach.
As for the game, the Mariners defeated the New York Yankees 4-1. It was the M’s only win of their four-game series against the Yanks and the only time they managed to score more than one run against the Pinstripers.
Wilson has that effect on teams. He helps them win. Maybe he should throw out the first pitch before every Mariners game?
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