The NFL Draft is quite literally the only sporting event happening right now outside of of Korean baseball. In honor of the draft taking place, I’d like to tell the stories of some notable athletes who had experiences with both baseball and football. Keep in mind, if you’re a fan of both sports, or even just one of them, you can’t escape the voice of Joe Buck following either of them.
Ken Griffey Jr.
Junior was the face of the game in the ‘90s, not to mention one of the greatest players of all time. He was famously on the same team as his father when he came up as a youngster, playing alongside Ken Griffey Sr. and even batting next to each other in the lineup. But Junior’s kids haven’t followed in their dad’s footsteps. His eldest son Trey was a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad this past season, and his other son, Tevin, is committed to playing football at Florida A&M University. While it’s great to see The Griffey family continuing their athletic prowess, I still feel like we were robbed of having a Ken Griffey III playing MLB baseball, establishing the greatest bloodline in pro sports history.
179 career catches, 2,593 yards, 27 touchdowns, All-American. Samardzija was a standout receiver at the University of Notre Dame. He was notably the favorite target of former Irish quarterback Brady Quinn. He was also a standout pitcher, however, and was given the dilemma of playing one sport of the other professionally. Ultimately he chose baseball. He came up in 2008 with the Cubs and racked up a 100 ERA+ during his time there. He bounced around between Toronto and Oakland starting in 2014 until the Giants gave him 125 million reasons to not miss football. He’s amassed a career 15.3 bWAR in his time as a big leaguer, but football fans contemplate what he couldve been if he’d chosen the gridiron.
Judge is a towering human being, so naturally his size makes him pretty good at sports. Most notably, he was a football star in high school, playing tight end at Linden High School in California. He was pretty highly recruited too. Judge says he had offers from several D1 football programs, most notably Stanford and Notre Dame. Ultimately he chose baseball and the rest is history.
This one hurts. Murray was a 5-star recruit as a quarterback out of high school while being a standout outfielder as well. He went to Texas A&M playing both sports, but then decided to transfer to Oklahoma. The NCAA made him sit out a year of football, and he was able to primarily focus on baseball during this time. After a standout season for the Sooners baseball team, he was drafted in the first round by the Oakland A’s. Oakland let him play one last year of football before reporting to the team after the 2018 season. Unfortunately Kyler was really good at football. He won the Heisman trophy as the nation’s most outstanding college football player, and was forced to chose between entering his name in the NFL draft or reporting to Oakland and starting his baseball career. As you may know, he chose football. As an A’s writer, I’ll never stop questioning how good he could’ve been as a baseball player. Who knows, maybe he’ll get bored of football and pull a Bo Jackson or something.
Patrick Mahomes II
Mahomes arguably has the greatest arm talent in the history of professional sports. It’s no secret his dad, Pat Sr., was an MLB reliever. He had a lengthy journeyman career, most notably with the Mets and Twins, where he posted a career ERA+ of 88. Patrick II was a dual sport high school athlete. He was even a member of Team USA baseball as a pitcher. He got his first taste of pro sports when he was drafted in the 37th round by the Tigers as a sophomore at Texas Tech. While he very well could’ve been a top three-round pick in the upcoming MLB Draft that year, he ended his baseball career and was drafted 11th overall by the Chiefs in the NFL Draft. His insanely talented arm shows signs of his baseball career with the way he can change arm angles and still maintain his accuracy. Mahomes could’ve been a star in whatever sport he picked, but there’s one fact about him that always keeps me going. When the Tigers drafted him in 2015, they didn’t know that when the Chiefs won the Super Bowl last year, they’d have drafted more Super Bowl winning Quarterbacks than their football counterpart, the Detroit Lions.
Mauer is one of the greatest catchers of this generation, both offensively and defensively. He was famously a homegrown Minnesotan who was drafted by and played his whole career for his hometown team. What some people don’t know is Joe Mauer was once the top Quarterback in his high school class. He was a 5-star talent and was committed to playing at Florida State. However Mauer did the exact opposite of what the aforementioned Kyler Murray did and chose baseball. Mauer was a career .306 hitter, who finished with 55.3 bWAR, won the 2009 AL MVP, and was a three-time batting champ. You could also make a case for him making it into Cooperstown one day. I think it’s safe to say Mauer made the right career choice.
I know I left out some of the biggest names to do it. Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, Russell Wilson, etc. Those guys deserve a whole separate article for themselves. But it goes to show that great athletes never have to be limited to just one sport. These guys have shown that it’s possible to compete at the highest level in multiple sports, which takes an insane amount of talent and dedication to their craft. Some of them have the potential to go down as some of the best to ever do it in their respective sports. Who knows, one day we could see this multi-sport athlete thing become more and more commonplace.