Long before Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson led his team to the Super Bowl in back-to-back seasons, the Richmond, Va., native got his start playing in the local Tuckahoe Little League. After developing into a two-sport star at Collegiate High School, Wilson received the call in 2007 that he'd been drafted by the Orioles. He passed on the opportunity, choosing instead to play at North Carolina State.
Just one month after his graduation, baseball came calling again, but this time it was the Rockies. Although Wilson had a year of eligibility left - he had redshirted as a freshman - he reported to Spring Training, and spent the 2010 and '11 seasons playing Minor League ball. But soon after, he hung up his glove and returned to the gridiron, going to graduate school at Wisconsin for the '11 football season.
Baseball, though, hasn't remained far behind for the star quarterback. In fact, the Rangers acquired the rights to the former second baseman in the 2013 Rule 5 Draft, and he returned to Spring Training in both '14 and '15. During his fourth full NFL season, Wilson spoke with us about his experiences.
Your childhood Little League has produced athletes like yourself and Justin Verlander. What was it like to play there?
It was a blast. It was where everyone went from the time they were 5 to 14 or 15 years old. We were there every weeknight. We had great teams, great players and great coaches. They taught us how to play the game the right way.
How did Little League shape your career?
Little League taught me about competition and how to approach a challenge. You have to sacrifice to be great.
What do you like most about baseball?
It's the first sport that I played and loved. There's just something about the control you feel when you take the mound or make a crazy play at shortstop. It's a timeless sport.
You've joined the Rangers for Spring Training the past two seasons. What sparked that decision?
I've been drafted three times: by the Orioles, the Rockies and then the Rangers. I figured I would give it a shot. I took some ground balls and had fun. Football is my career focus, but it felt natural to be back on the baseball field.
You make an effort to help children across the country. Why is that important to you?
The Russell Wilson Passing Academy is one of my passions, and we inspire kids throughout the U.S. to be great. I try to make a positive impact and promote a healthy lifestyle. Our coaches do a great job, and I think it's inspiring for kids to see me out there teaching them to love the game.
How has your life changed since the Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2014?
It really hasn't changed at all. My goal is to make every year a championship year.
What advice do you give the Little Leaguers you mentor?
My father always told me not to be too up or too down. If you strike out, so what? If you hit a home run, act like you've done it before.
Brian McClintock is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.