Now that the American Football season is over — a begrudging congratulations to the Denver Broncos — baseball lovers ignite with the excitement of a new baseball season. Pitchers and catchers report here shortly, and hope springs eternal for all 30 MLB teams.
And on most every MLB roster are a few young men hoping to make noise in Spring Training and take their first steps onto a MLB diamond in 2016. But what of the ones who don’t make it? They have at-bats and drills and bullpens aplenty in the minor leagues, where they can hone their skills, biding their time. For most their biggest, brightest dream is to play Major League Baseball.
There are a handful of MLB draftees you’ve hardly ever heard of — in terms of the diamond at least. Some have eschewed the relatively low-contact sport and guaranteed contracts for the prospects of playing football in the NFL. Not limiting among them are two of the better quarterbacks decade.
Russell Wilson, quarterback and a Super Bowl Champion with the Seattle Seahawks, was drafted twice in MLB, most recently as a 4th round pick of the Colorado Rockies in 2010. His history as a baseball player, and time spent in the minor Leagues during the baseball off-season, actually drove him away from North Carolina State and into the arms of the willing Wisconsin Badgers, a school where he played his way into a 3rd round, 75th overall draft pick by the Seattle Seahawks.
Many considered baseball the best athletic opportunity for the infielder, but Wilson stuck with football and has plenty to show for it. However, Wilson has yet to deny himself his baseball passion. In recent off-seasons, Russell Wilson has joined the Texas Rangers at Spring Training (a team who picked him up in the Rule 5 draft). Though it seems unlikely that Wilson will play professional baseball, he is certainly torn between the two sports.
A high school left-handed power hitting catcher was drafted in the 18th round of the 1995 draft by the Montreal Expos, providing what many would consider a very plausible path to time spent as a Major League Baseball player. Instead, that young man took a football scholarship to play quarterback at a football powerhouse. He split the starting role with a freshman his senior season; so unsure of his future in football he even started on a resume. His NFL draft stock dropped all the way to the 199th pick. Should he have taken the baseball opportunity when he had the chance?
Apparently not, as Tom Brady is now considered one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game. Brady was drafted lower than Russell Wilson in both baseball and football, but has thus far found himself on a most successful path to greatness on the gridiron.
Other MLB draftees who found themselves choosing football include: NY Jets wide receiver Eric Decker; Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston; former Broncos quarterback John Elway; Dolphins great Dan Marino; former Vikings QB Dante Cullpepper; Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate; and Hall of Fame corner back Deion Sanders.
This goes to show that many athletes are just that– athletes– not pigeon-holed to one single talent in one single sport. But, to the benefit of the many who choose baseball over football, the pigskin talk is soon to quiet. In the brightening days of early spring, baseball gathers once again to emerge from dry heat of summer as World Champions.
Football has crowned their champion. Who’s next in the MLB?