18 MLB Players Who Could Play Another Pro Sport
There's a despicable stereotype that insists baseball players aren't great athletes.
What an outdated generalization.
For years, dynamic, multi-sport stars have been seizing roster spots from immobile individuals and improving the overall quality of MLB games.
Versatile competitors frequently choose the national pastime in lieu of tempting alternatives, but that doesn't mean they leave everything else behind. The offseason affords them ample opportunities to stay fresh.
In fact, I'm confident that at least 18 active MLB players could set down their baseball equipment and excel in another professional league.
Dee Gordon (Los Angeles Dodgers): Basketball
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Despite being the son of a former MLB player, Dee Gordon did not feel restrained to that career path.
Actually, the speedster dedicated himself to the hardwood from early childhood. He thrived as a shifty, high-scoring point guard and committed to Louisville's storied program.
His recently-retired father got him to concentrate on baseball with the bribe of a new car (h/t Jon Heyman, CBSSports.com).
The elder Gordon was also worried that maxing out at 5'10" would be difficult to overcome in the NBA.
A valid concern, but gifted with such agility, he would have been unstoppable in transition.
Matt Holliday (St. Louis Cardinals): Football
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Matt Holliday was raised within spitting distance of Oklahoma State University.
Earning All-American honors as a senior quarterback caught the school's attention and the Cowboys were persistent in their recruiting efforts.
One thing is certain—the outfielder has stayed buff enough to shake off hits from the meanest tacklers.
Kyle Lohse (St. Louis Cardinals): Golf
Kyle Lohse kept his options open as a young man by playing basketball and football during the baseball offseason.
These days, however, his favorite No. 2 is golf.
He competed on the Golf Channel Amateur Tour in 2012 and nearly won the West Valley Championship.
Adam Dunn (Chicago White Sox): Football
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As a 285-pound quarterback, Adam Dunn must have been a nightmare for would-be tacklers.
The Texas Longhorns originally recruited him to stand in the pocket but asked him to try tight end in 1999 when Chris Simms committed to the program.
That's when Dunn decided to focus on baseball.
His 2011 campaign notwithstanding, his career has panned out pretty well.
Alex Rodriguez (New York Yankees): Football
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Six weeks after fracturing his non-throwing hand, Alex Rodriguez returned to the New York Yankees lineup.
How did he stay busy in the interim? By throwing around the pigskin.
A-Rod was very effective as a quarterback at Westminster Christian High School. The University of Miami even invited him to take his talents to Division I.
At 37 years old, he could still have success under center. He's a workout warrior who possesses the arm strength and size of an average NFL quarterback.
Carl Crawford (Los Angeles Dodgers): Football
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Mobile passers like Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow are quickly becoming the faces of the National Football League.
However, Michael Vick is more established than any of them, and athletically, the veteran quarterback has a lot in common with Carl Crawford.
Both are left-handed throwers on the wrong side of 30 who use speed to frustrate opponents.
Crawford signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Nebraska before deciding to pursue a baseball career.
At this time next summer, he could have all the tools of a dual-threat quarterback. The Tommy John surgery he underwent in August will eventually lead to an uptick in throwing velocity.
Nyjer Morgan (Milwaukee Brewers): Hockey
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Certain institutions claim that Nyjer Morgan has played professional hockey.
The NCAA, for example, denies eligibility to athletes who spend time with Canadian Hockey League teams. Therefore, Morgan would not be granted amateur status because of his seven-game experience at the major junior level as a member of the Regina Pats (1999-2000).
He's equipped with speed, intensity and skating ability, all of which he got the chance to flaunt at a San Jose Sharks practice last February (h/t Mike Halford of nbcsports.com).
Carlos Quentin (San Diego Padres): Football
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An offseason trade brought Carlos Quentin back to the San Diego area, where he had distinguished himself as an elite athlete at the turn of the millennium.
He received all sorts of accolades during the 1999 football season for his dominance at the outside linebacker position.
The following year, he was named San Diego Male Athlete of the Year.
Quentin still yearns for physical contact and has never tweaked his batting stance to avoid it. For the second straight season, he leads the big leagues in times hit by pitch.
Jeff Samardzija (Chicago Cubs): Football
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Coming out of Notre Dame, Jeff Samardzija thought long and hard about whether to continue with baseball or football (or both). His exclusive interview with ESPN The Magazine's Amy K. Nelson gives us a taste of his thought process.
He had the frame, pedigree and skill set to excel in either profession.
Actually, as a finalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award and his school's all-time leading receiver (now No. 2 behind Michael Floyd), Samardzija would likely have had an easier time breaking into the NFL.
Derek Jeter (New York Yankees): Soccer
The New York Yankees captain brings a soccer-playing mentality to the ballpark everyday even though he discontinued his affiliation with the sport many years ago.
He constantly hustles in anticipation of an opponent's mistake.
Also, Derek Jeter has a habit of dramatizing inside pitches. It's like he's trying to get a foul called on the pitcher!
Livan Hernandez (Milwaukee Brewers): Golf
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Even if his baseball career expires this winter, the right-hander will have no trouble keeping himself occupied.
Not only does Livan Hernandez enjoy golf, he could earn considerable cash as a competitor on the PGA Tour.
According to totalprosports.com, he plays with a handicap of zero.
Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers): Soccer
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As MLB.com's Adam McCalvy writes, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun thinks he could have had a pro career in soccer "for sure."
He has yet to renege on that statement, and it's unlikely he ever will. The reigning NL MVP—with that one-of-a-kind University of Miami swagger instilled in him—doesn't confess his limitations.
Hopefully, he'll attempt to cross over soon.
If recent spikes in his stolen-base totals and defensive range are any indications, Braun might be reaching his athletic peak.
Todd Helton (Colorado Rockies): Football
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The former Tennessee Volunteers quarterback was once ahead of Peyton Manning on the football team's 1994 depth chart!
Unfortunately, a knee injury ended his season prematurely, and he was never able to reclaim the starting job.
Considering that Manning developed into a future Hall of Famer in the National Football League, I imagine Todd Helton would have at least had an opportunity to establish himself.
Austin Jackson (Detroit Tigers): Basketball
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Out of high school, Austin Jackson was very serious about pursuing a basketball career.
The New York Yankees made him the highest-paid eighth-round draft pick ever, yet he was still mulling over the possibility of enrolling at Georgia Tech, writes Jeff Fletcher of aolnews.com.
The athletic point guard believes he "would be in the NBA right now" had he focused solely on hoops (via Tim Kurkjian).
Grady Sizemore (Cleveland Indians): Football
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The Cleveland Indians lured the two-sport star away from the University of Washington with a $2 million signing bonus in 2000.
Though Grady Sizemore was once an exceptional running back, it seems he made the safe choice.
NFL contracts are never fully guaranteed, so the durability issues he has battled as a major leaguer would have left him in a rough financial situation.
Nick Swisher (New York Yankees): Football
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Nick Swisher was a defensive-minded football player. Not what you'd expect from an outfielder who now prides himself on his batting ability.
Notre Dame and other notable programs wanted him as a strong safety, but Swisher was determined to follow in his father's footsteps.
Fortunately, his risk-taking paid off.
Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels): Anything
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Scouts also viewed Mike Trout as a "toolsy" prospect. Many skeptics weren't convinced that his speed could be used as a game-changing weapon, at least not on a baseball diamond.
As a result, he fell down the draft board to the Los Angeles Angels.
The lesson learned was this: With the right work ethic, raw athleticism can accomplish anything.
Joe Mauer (Minnesota Twins): Basketball, Football
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Joe Mauer was making history at 18 years of age when USA Today named him High School Player of the Year in baseball. The announcement came less than six months after he received the same recognition for his football prowess.
The consensus is that he could've been a stellar NFL quarterback. Florida State thought enough of him to offer a full scholarship and starting guarantee.
But let's not forget about his all-state basketball career at Cretin-Derham Hall High School.
As told to ESPN's Tim Kurkjian, Mauer was a defensive specialist who also averaged 22 points per game. Former teammate Torii Hunter raved about his picturesque shooting form.