Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Rays

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson invested in bringing MLB team to Portland

He might have been wearing his favorites team’s uniform Friday, but the All-Pro is a big backer of the Portland Diamond Project.
Quarterback Russell Wilson (3), of the Seattle Seahawks, during the first half of the NFL Pro Bowl on Jan. 27, 2019, in Orlando. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Published Mar. 15

TAMPA — Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is wearing pinstripes this week, the second straight spring training that the All-Pro is briefly joining Yankees camp in Tampa. But his greatest impact in baseball may be yet to be made. He is a major part of a group hoping to eventually lure a major-league team to Portland, Ore.

Wilson and his wife, recording artist Ciara, are charter investors in the Portland Diamond Project, which is building momentum in showing it can be a big-league market. In November, the group unveiled plans to build a new stadium along the Portland waterfront, having agreed in principle on a site. The group has reportedly built up $1.3 billion in financial commitments toward the estimated $2.5 billion price tag of acquiring a team and building a facility.

Right now, the group is hoping to to land an expansion club, but MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has tabled expansion talk until stadium situations in Tampa Bay and Oakland are resolved. Expanding to 32 teams would allow divisional realignment, keeping clubs closer together geographically and making travel less burdensome.

“Baseball is such an amazing sport,” Wilson said Friday. “The interesting part to is that (now) it’s 30 teams. I think football and basketball have a really good system because there’s 32. It divides up pretty evenly and it makes it kind of interesting have the NFC West and having the NFC South and all these division so it’s cool.”

Still, with the Rays’ search for a new stadium back to Square One after the Ybor City project was scrubbed, it is relevant that Portland is building support and capital when trying to predict the long-term future of the Rays. Montreal and Portland are widely considered the two most likely cities to land a team, and Manfred has mentioned Las Vegas, Charlotte, Vancouver and Nashville as other possibilities.

"The reality is in the Pacific Northwest, there's not too many better places to play," Wilson said. "Obviously it rains a lot, and that's during football season unfortunately. When you hit baseball seasons, really mid-April, May, June, July, August, September, that's when it's really beautiful in the Pacific Northwest, and it's really one of the most beautiful places to play. I think having a team in the Pacific Northwest would be amazing. I think that it should happen."

It definitely appears that Wilson, who was a fourth-round pick out of N.C. State and played two seasons of minor-league ball in the Rockies’ farm system, has plans to play a bigger role in baseball beyond his casual appearances in spring training.

“The game of baseball changed my life,” Wilson said. “This was the first game I ever played — and now I get to play football for my whole life ― but it’s the first thing i did. The first thing I picked up was a baseball, a baseball bat, playing when I was three, four years old. I started playing T-ball when i had just turned four. That was the game my parents took me to every day. We used to play triple-headers in Virginia, so I think keeping that tradition alive in baseball, continually making it interesting for young kids, too as well, around the world. It’s such a special sport. Obviously the tradition here (with the Yankees) is one of a kind, and to continue that around the game and around the world would be amazing.”

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Erik Neander, Tampa Bay Rays senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager, addresses the media during a press conference at Tropicana Field Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Award came from a vote of team executives; Yankees Cashman was second.
  2. Flanked by his mother, Michelle Alonso, left, father Peter Alonso (blue shirt, standing), girlfriend Haley Walsh, right, and friends, New York Mets rookie first baseman Pete Alonso, 24, reacts as he finds out he has won the National League Rookie of the Year award on Monday at his home in Tampa.  Alonso, a Plant High graduate, made a grand entrance to the big leagues, hitting a major-league rookie and team-record 53 home runs for the Mets. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The easiest part of the day for the travel-weary first baseman may have been receiving the prestigious award.
  3. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash speaks at a news conference before an Oct. 1 American League wild-card game practice in Oakland, Calif. JEFF CHIU  |  AP
    Marc Topkin: The Twins Rocco Baldelli and Yankees Aaron Boone are the other two finalists for the hard-to-define award.
  4. Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe (8) is showered with sunflower seeds after hitting a solo homer in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros in Game 3 of the American League Division Series Monday, Oct. 7, 2019 in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Former Plant High and Florida star Pete Alonso a favorite for NL Rookie of the Year, to be announced Monday
  5. Erik Neander, Tampa Bay Rays senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager, says of the general manager meetings, which start this week, "We’d love to find a way to score a lot more runs without sacrificing run prevention.'' DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Rays Tales: Erik Neander says 2019 success provides “a stronger starting point” than they have had in a while. Plus, rumblings.
  6. Manager Kevin Cash has led the Rays to back-to-back seasons of 90 or more victories. He finished third in the American League Manager of the Year voting in 2018 and is one of three finalists again this year with the winner being announced on Tuesday. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    John Romano: His profile is as low as Tampa Bay’s payroll, but AL Manager of the Year candidate Kevin Cash consistently gets the most out of the Rays.
  7. ALLIE GOULDING   |   Times
Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro (33) talks to umpire Bruce Dreckman at the bottom of the fourth inning against Texas Rangers on Sunday, June 30, 2019 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. 
 ALLIE GOULDING  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The other finalists, per a report, are Astros bench coach Joe Espada and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.
  8. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash (16) pumps his fist while walking onto the field just prior to taking on the Houston Astros for Game 3 of the American League Division Series in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Charlie Morton is in the top 3 for the Cy Young Award and Brandon Lowe for Rookie of the Year honors as well.
  9. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash (16) smiles in the dugout just prior to the Rays taking on the Houston Astros in Game 2 of the American League Division Series Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 in Houston. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Manager Kevin Cash seems to have the best chance to be among the top three for the four major awards.
  10. Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) catches a ball in the outfield at the top of the fifth inning against Cleveland Indians on Sunday, Sept. 01, 2019 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.   ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    On being acknowledged by AL coaches, doing even better, his favorite catches, help from teammates, winning more
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement