Dust Devils notebook: Rockies scout was high on Russell Wilson

July 12, 2014 

Even before he led the Seattle Seahawks to a Super Bowl championship, Russell Wilson had a level of confidence that set him apart from his NFL counterparts.

But in his first days as a professional baseball player, Wilson — who made his pro debut with the Tri-City Dust Devils in 2010 — wasn’t so sure about his ability to turn the double play.

So the day before Wilson, a fourth-round pick by the Colorado Rockies in 2010, was to fly out to Coors Field in Denver for an informal workout with the Rockies brass, he gave Jay Matthews a call. Matthews, who had signed Wilson after following him since he was a 10th-grader at Richmond (Va.) Collegiate School, was short on time but didn’t want to leave Wilson in a lurch.

So the pair improvised, meeting up in a parking garage in Raleigh, N.C.

“We met up, and he was waiting right there with his glove and his shorts on,” Matthews said. “I think we used a Baseball America (magazine) as a base. I rolled him some balls and (worked on) his footwork.”

“The next day he went out to Denver, and Rich Dauer, our infield guy, called me,” Matthews continued. “I told him how (Wilson) learned how to turn the double play yesterday, and Richie said it looked like he’d been doing it all his life.

“That shows what kind of athlete he is.”

Matthews said Wilson’s athletic ability was apparent even before he started making the headlines as a quarterback at North Carolina State, but his desire to succeed was unmatched.

“You don’t tell him no, because he was always going to prove to people who were questioning him what he could do,” Matthews said, adding that he believes Wilson would have made it to the major leagues had he continued in baseball.

“He’s intelligent. He knows how to get the best out of his ablity. He just didn’t play enough. It’s a game you’ve gotta play, play, play. You’ve gotta fail and overcome adversity. He just didn’t get a chance to because football took off.

“He probably made the right choice. He’s a Super Bowl-winning quarterback.”

Wilson isn’t the only player upon whom Matthews has had a positive impact. Matthews is a rare breed who splits time as a coach and one of the Rockies’ four national cross-checkers. As a result, he’s able to track players before they reach the organization, then help them get to the majors.

He started coaching with the High-A Asheville Tourists in 2009, then spent time at High-A Modesto before going back and forth between Grand Junction and Tri-City this season.

“It’s a joy to scout the players. Now I get to come in and get on the field with them and work with them,” he said. “There’s not much chance for time off, but this is what I love to do.”

Notes: Spokane 2B Jose Trevino, a sixth-round pick by the Texas Rangers out of Oral Roberts, was named the Northwest League offensive player of the week after going 10-for-28 with two doubles, two triples, three home runs and 10 RBIs in seven games. He is tied for second in the NWL with 6 HRs and second in RBIs with 23.

Vancouver starter Miguel Castro earned the NWL pitcher of the week honors, fanning 13 batters in 10 innings last week in a pair of wins. He’s also holding NWL hitters to a .193 average.

Dust Devils moves: RHP Tyler Gagnon and OF Francisco Sosa were promoted to High-A Modesto (Calif.) after completing rehabilitation stints in Tri-City. OF Sean Dwyer, who spent the 2013 season with the Dust Devils, was sent from Modesto to Tri-City.

A pair of undrafted free agents — RHP John Sheehan, out of William & Mary (Va.), and RHP Chad Zurat — were assigned to Tri-City on Friday.

w Jack Millikin; 582-1406; jmillikin@tricityherald.com

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