Surprise, Ariz. -- Texas Rangers fans might still be furious with Josh Hamilton for saying the Rangers play in a football town, but Monday no one could dare argue that their spring training complex suddenly had been converted into a 12th Man.
This wasn't a Rangers crowd that arrived early Monday morning, but a Seattle Seahawks convention. Fans flocked to the back fields, carrying everything from footballs to baseballs to Super Bowl posters, hoping to get a glimpse of the most famous Rangers player in camp.
Russell Wilson might technically be property of the Rangers, but he belongs to the Seahawks, forever cherished in the Pacific Northwest after leading the franchise last month to its first Super Bowl championship.
When members of the crowd weren't screaming "I love you, Russell!" they were breaking into Seahawks chants. Caitlin Johnson, yelling at Wilson to catch his attention, carried a sign that read: "Sorry Rangers' Fans, We're Here For Wilson."
"Hopefully, the Dallas fans don't get too mad," Wilson said.
The way Wilson carried himself, he probably converted members of the Rangers organization into Seahawks fans. He spoke about his passion and love for baseball. He talked about his mission to have more African-American kids play baseball.
And despite being a 25-year-old Super Bowl-winning quarterback, he's not ready to give up his dream of one day playing football and baseball, with Deion Sanders encouraging him.
"Obviously, my focus is football," Wilson said. "I just won a Super Bowl. But I'd never say never. I've always had a goal of playing two sports."
The Rangers say they have an open door for him, if they can ever stop selling his jerseys. The souvenir shop at Surprise Stadium sold out of the $30 Wilson T-shirts in 10 minutes, and by the end of the game only a few $125 Wilson jerseys remained.
"I'm trying to get an autograph myself," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "I don't want him to sign a baseball. I'm trying to get a football, or at least a helmet."
Wilson's arrival drew 75 reporters and eight TV crews to the Rangers-Cleveland Indians spring training game, with ESPN, the NFL Network and the MLB Network angling for a slice of his crossover appeal.
"Now, if we can just get Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Timberlake out here, we can take it to another level," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told USA TODAY Sports.
A week ago, Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, drafted in 2012 by the Rangers, was playing outfield for Florida State in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees. If Major League Baseball wants to get the best athletes playing its sport, give the microphone to these guys.
"It's a great sport, a timeless sport. It's relaxing, it's fun," Wilson said. "It's one of those things in the African-American community I wish that they would push more. Hopefully I can encourage people to do that."
When the Colorado Rockies gave up on him and the Rangers selected Wilson in December in the Rule 5 draft, Mark Rodgers, Wilson's agent, told the Rangers to call him immediately. Daniels told him it was 6 a.m. Seattle time. No problem. Wilson was already working out, making sure he was up before NFL peers such as Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
This time, Wilson and Rodgers called Daniels on Sunday when they arrived into town for dinner. Daniels told them he was committed to a Rangers sponsorship and suiteholder event. Wilson asked if he could come. Daniels couldn't believe it.
Wilson went to the event, chatted with 200 people, sat down for an informal 25-minute question-and-answer session and was one of the last to leave the Scottsdale resort, signing autographs in the lobby.
Wilson returned to his hotel, caught a few hours' sleep and arrived at camp at 7 a.m. Monday. He took infield drills precisely at 8 a.m. on the back fields with the likes of Jurickson Profar and Prince Fielder. Then he did drills like any other infielder.
"It was an unbelievable experience, better than anything I ever imagined," Wilson says.
The only regret was the Rangers' refusal to let him play or take batting practice.
"We knew how much Russell wanted to get into the game," Daniels said, "but after talking to (manager Ron Washington), he told Russell, 'Man, I just can't do that. We wouldn't be able to sleep at night on the half-percent chance that something would happen.'"
"I get hit by 300-pound linemen all of the time," Wilson said. "What's going to happen?"
Besides, when the last image of Wilson is him standing on stage and holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy at the Meadowlands, who wants to see their hero strike out?
"If I'm a Super Bowl quarterback, I don't want to mess up with everybody watching, either," Andrus says.
That leaves plenty to the imagination. Washington said with repetition, "He could probably be as good as he is a football player."
Whoa. Wilson has speed, defensive skills and athleticism, but he hit .229 with 118 strikeouts in 315 at-bats during two minor league seasons in 2010 and 2011.
This day, however, was more about intangibles. Wilson spent time chatting intently with third baseman Adrian Beltre. Laughing with Fielder. Talking about commitment with Andrus. And addressing the entire minor league camp in the early evening.
"I hope I helped them out in some way, because I know they helped me out," he said. "This is something I'll never forget."
And that Rangers uniform Wilson wore Monday?
He's taking it home.