Russell Wilson reacts to teammate Earl Thomas skipping Seahawks mandatory minicamp
Russell Wilson has gotten a bird's-eye view of his recently announced venture to bring a Major League Baseball team to Portland.
Literally. As in, actually from the sky.
The Seahawks' $87.6 million franchise quarterback—plus part-time New York Yankee, race-car dabbler, product pitch man and entrepreneur—has been flying helicopters, including over the Rose City.
Of course he has.
Tuesday, Wilson revealed he's a helicopter pilot. That was two days after he was in a race car at a Formula I event in Canada. He was talking about how he saw potential sites for a new MLB stadium in Portland when he mentioned one of his many other interests.
"It's a city that loves, LOVES, sports," Wilson said. "Me and (wife) Ciara, actually, got the chance—because I've actually been flying helicopters—we got a chance to go fly over the sites, right? And the Portland soccer team (the Timbers, of Major League Soccer) was playing down there, and the place was packed. I mean, every game, 25,000 or however many people there is, 25,000 people, sold out. It's just cool to see the city and the energy of that city.
"Obviously, the Mariners have been doing great things. And I think the Pacific Northwest deserves (two MLB teams)."
Wait...I couldn't let that aside go past: The Seahawks' most indispensable player is flying helicopters around urban centers?
"Yeah, yeah. I'm flying," Wilson said. "Probably (for) about almost a year."
"I think that for me, I don't much time where you kind of get away and kind of free your mind a little bit—and I don't mean that, like, in a weird way. I just mean in a sense of, just being able to see, especially here in the Pacific Northwest, you get in Seattle and you get up in the air and you get to see the mountains," Wilson said. "You get to see the trees and the water and everything. You really, for me, I get to see where God is and what God's created, you know. And it's just a blessing, every day. I'm thankful every day for what God's been able to give me.
"I'm thankful for that, every day."
Apparently, the $87.6 million contract extension Wilson signed with the Seahawks did not include a clause prohibiting him piloting helicopters.
Wilson was good friends with Jimmy Graham the last three years until the Pro Bowl tight end signed a free-agent contract with Green Bay in March. Graham is a licensed airplane pilot.
Estimates are flying a helicopter is 25 to 85 times more dangerous than driving a car. Some other estimates are that "helicopters crash about 35 percent more often per hour in the air than your average aircraft."
In 2016, Wilson posted on his social-media channels him flying Ciara around downtown Seattle in a helicopter. But at the time that seemed like a one-time fling. Now he's saying he's been flying regularly.
"Every year I try to do something different," Wilson said Tuesday. "So that's kind of been my thing over the past year."
Wilson got steered toward this chance at owning an MLB team by Craig Cheek, a former Nike executive. Cheek was instrumental in Wilson's endorsement contract with Nike. The shoe, gear and apparel behemoth's headquarters is in the Portland suburb of Beaverton.
Wilson was a college and low-Class-A infielder in the minor leagues before the Seahawks drafted him to be their quarterback in 2012. He's recently made spring-training cameos with the Yankess—this spring, when he got an at-bat in an exhibition game—and in previous springs with the Texas Rangers.
"You guys know, I love baseball. It's a huge opportunity. I've said I would love to own a team some day.
"I had the chance to make an impact in Portland. It's a city that actually means a lot, especially in the sense of the Pacific Northwest, obviously.
"They have a great fan base in terms of the Seattle Seahawks there, too, as well. I thought it was a great opportunity to try to bring baseball to the Pacific Northwest. It's an exciting time."
I asked Wilson if anyone from MLB has given Portland a reasonable chance to land a big-league team. MLB currently has 30 teams, and its commissioner Rob Manfred recently told the Athletic "we are interested" in expansion.
"Definitely think there's a chance, without saying too much," he said. "I definitely think there's a chance, for sure. It's an exciting time, and I'm looking forward to it."
Wilson was asked about trying to bring an MLB team to Portland that would be an instant rival with the Mariners, who play next door to the Seahawks' home stadium in the SoDo section of downtown Seattle.
"I don't think it would be awkward. I love Seattle, obviously," Wilson said. "There's no football team in Portland, so I can't play any football in Portland.
"I love Seattle. It's always meant the world to me. You know, I love baseball. You guys know. I mean, baseball's been the first sport I ever played, you know. So, in terms of the opportunity to own a baseball team, that's one of the greatest opportunities you can have in, really, sports business...in terms of effecting lives and doing great things in the community. The baseball community does it right.
"It's a cool opportunity, for sure."