15 of the Coolest Players in the MLB
Being a professional athlete is so much more than simply performing well and winning. The most successful superstars build personas that exist off the court or field, allowing them to connect with people who don't necessarily identify with their sport.
Fans often forget that athletes have real lives when they're not in uniform. Players have families, social lives, businesses and hobbies, too. Playing a sport is just a job, albeit a great one, that also requires athletes to have a public persona in street clothes.
To that end, lets take a look at 15 of the coolest players (and one manager) in Major League Baseball with some of the largest individual followings and oddest off-field interests. They are listed in no particular order, as coolness lacks a singular definition by which to rank.
MLB employs hundreds of players, so we probably missed a few good ones. If your "coolest" player didn't make it on this list, be sure to let us know about him in the comments.
Ross Ohlendorf, P, WAS
Judging by public reaction when athletes return to college to finish their degree, it's fair to say public perception of their intelligence tends to be on the low side.
True or not in the grander sense, it certainly doesn't apply to Ross Ohlendorf. He graduated from Princeton with a 3.8 GPA in operations research and financial engineering and wrote a 140-page thesis entitled Investing in Prospects: A Look at the Financial Successes of Major League Baseball Rule IV Drafts from 1989 to 1993.
Ohlendorf was voted the third-smartest professional athlete by Sporting News and served as an intern for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Tony Sanchez, C, PIT
Any grown man volunteering to associate himself with a Disney/Pixar movie in front of thousands of people on a regular basis deserves a tip of the cap. Bucs catcher Tony Sanchez made this decree before the season:
It's official. "Let it Go" WILL be one of my walk outs. Would be dumb not to throw @idinamenzel into the mix.— Tony Sanchez (@Tony26Montana) March 23, 2014
For those who are not #Frozen fans, don't worry. You'll only have to hear it once a week.— Tony Sanchez (@Tony26Montana) March 23, 2014
Joe Maddon, Manager, TB
Joe Maddon might just be the coolest guy in Major League Baseball, and he's not even a player. The Tampa Bay Rays manager has been channeling his inner Woody Allen (or Elvis Costello) for years with thick, horn-rimmed glasses one might describe as "hipster".
Maddon backs up the nerdy look with a vibrant personality. As profiled by Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Business Insider and others, he's famous for keeping a wine rack in his office, biking to work, and bringing fun animals into the clubhouse to keep his players loose.
He once invited Pink to sing the national anthem at a Rays game via Twitter.
Going to miss @Pink at the Times Forum 2nite but would love to have her throw out 1st pitch at tomorrow's game vs Tigers or take BP.— Joe Maddon (@RaysJoeMaddon) February 27, 2013
His ballclub creates fan giveaways using his likeness:
And he started themed dress codes for road trips!
Our next themed trip is accidental preppie to Houston. Looking for shorts & sports coats from the guys. Seersucker and madras encouraged.— Joe Maddon (@RaysJoeMaddon) June 24, 2013
Nick Swisher, 1B, CLE
You're probably doing something right if Yankee fans embrace you upon returning to the Bronx in a different uniform.
Nick Swisher famously received a standing ovation from the Bleacher Creatures last year in his first visit as a Cleveland Indian after four years in pinstripes.
The 11-year vet has over 1.7 million followers on Twitter despite making the All-Star Game just once. Chalk his popularity up to a humble attitude and lots of fan interaction (and a contest with Ashton Kutcher over who could get to a million first). Peruse his Twitter feed and you'll find him engaging followers in any number of subjects, from baseball:
Who's as excited for the home opener as I am? I feel like giving away some tickets!— Nick Swisher (@NickSwisher) April 3, 2014
To what's on his DVR:
There's seems to be a lot to Swisher that you don't get from his uniform. First, there's the goofy video above about his roommate skills at spring training.
Then you find out he recorded a children's music album for charity in 2011.
I just found out my album, BELIEVE, is # 3 on itunes bestselling kids album! This is so cool! I am honored. Thank you!— Nick Swisher (@NickSwisher) August 4, 2011
In case you were unaware, Swish is a proud native son of "Brohio" and a former Buckeye.
Suffice to say Swish does what he wants and always makes it #Swishalicious.
C.J. Wilson, P, LAA
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more enigmatic personality than C.J. Wilson in any clubhouse around the league.
From his Taoist beliefs and "Straight Edge" lifestyle (his Twitter handle is @str8edgeracer) to CJ Wilson Racing, the Los Angeles Angels' pitcher is an endless stream of surprises. Yes, he owns a professional racing team and partakes in the sport in spare time, even suggesting to KPCC radio recently that it's harder than baseball.
Despite having 196,000 Twitter followers, Wilson is a fan himself. The All-Star pitcher is a self-proclaimed sci-fi nerd and Lost aficionado. As Wilson revealed in an interview with SI.com's Jimmy Traina, he reached out to the show's producers on Twitter and they became fast friends.
To top it all off, he's got an irreverent sense of humor that pulls no punches:
Andrew McCutchen, CF, PIT
What's not to like about the reigning NL MVP? Andrew McCutchen is so cool that instead of being on a slideshow of such players, Yahoo came up with an entire list of reasons why he's awesome.
On the field, Cutch led the Pittsburgh Pirates to their first winning record and playoff appearance since 1992, just before Bryce Harper was born. He slides, dives, and dances all in the name of Buc Nation.
Not the ending we wanted but who woulda thought we would have made it this far? Thx to all who believed in us.A change has come 2 Pittsburgh— andrew mccutchen (@TheCUTCH22) October 10, 2013
But that's just the surface. Dig deeper and you'll find that Cutch boasts a number of talents, including doodling:
Browse Cutch's Instagram account and you'll find he's a true man of the people, posting pictures playing airplane with his girlfriend (he's the airplane), donning Halloween makeup and making words with M&Ms.
And he's got a huge heart, as evidenced by Yahoo's report that he replaced a youth softball team's jersey order after they were scammed out of $2,000.
How big of an impact does the 27-year-old have on his fans? How about "Cutch hair" catching on in Pittsburgh.
R.A. Dickey, P, TOR
At age 37, what Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey lacks in swag he makes up for in smarts.
The 2012 NL Cy Young winner has some surprising off-field pursuits. As reported by the New York Times' Tyler Kepner back in 2010, Dickey's backup profession to baseball is English professor. Perhaps that's why he keeps light readings such as Life of Pi on hand in his locker. Or how he ended up writing Knuckleball Ned, a children's book.
The 12-year journeyman enters the batter's box to the Game of Thrones theme music and named his bats after legendary swords from Beowulf and The Hobbit. He also take pride in educating his two daughters in all things Star Wars.
Dickey's interests span wider. In January 2012, he risked an entire year's salary to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with two other major leaguers—raising money for at-risk girls and women in Mumbai—and blogged about it. And this was before his Cy Young season.
Oh, and he wrote a personal memoir back in 2012 that's being optioned into a movie, to be written by Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights.
Nyjer Morgan, CF, CLE
Though Tony Plush might have been holding Nyjer Morgan back from staying up in the bigs, he remains MLB's favorite alter ego upon returning with the Cleveland Indians.
Plush's fun-loving attitude has endeared him to fans throughout four different major league stops, as well as the one year he spent in the Japanese Central League.
Beyond Tony Plush and his 70,000 Twitter followers, Morgan is full of surprises. He was recruited to play junior level hockey in Canada before pursuing baseball, and he named his cat Slick Willie.
My best friend Slick is now in Cat Heaven. I Loved My Buddy. RIP SLICK WILLIE MORGAN.— Nyjer Morgan - T Dot (@TheRealTPlush) September 11, 2013
Logan Morrison, 1B/OF, SEA
Logan Morrison's humor isn't for everyone, but he gives his 122,000 Twitter followers the option to decide by airing just about every thought that goes through his head.
If I were to be Native American. Would I not get taxed? If this is true, I'm so jealy!— Logan Morrison (@CupOfLoMo) March 17, 2014
The Miami New Times put together a collection of their favorite LoMo tweets upon hearing news he was traded to the West coast. Some of the choicest:
Buy beer... RT @MLB BRYCE HARPER JUST STOLE HOME. What can't this kid do?— Logan Morrison (@CupOfLoMo) May 7, 2012
I know this must be "hard". Stay strong! RT @RyanFishy: LoMo I have erectile dysfunction & it would make me excited if I got a RT from u— Logan Morrison (@CupOfLoMo) November 18, 2012
Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF, COL
How many professional baseball players can silence an audience at a kid's birthday party with magic card tricks and then bring a crowd to their feet by hitting home runs?
At least one. Michael Cuddyer, the 2013 NL batting champion as a member of the Colorado Rockies, wows fans and teammates alike with his illusions. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reported former teammate Jason Giambi's approval:
"He's blowing guys' minds here,'' Jason Giambi said of Cuddyer. "[The tricks] are as good as any I've ever seen, and trust me, I live in Vegas and I get to see a lot of those shows. They're pretty incredible.''
And who doesn't love a good magic trick? Apparently nobody. The Colorado Rockies often use his tricks as part of promo videos run on their Jumbotron.
Cuddy is active on Twitter, mostly engaging with his 78,000 followers about his career, as well as his favorite teams in other sports.
Game day!! #GONOLES— Michael Cuddyer (@mcuddy3) January 6, 2014
Robinson Cano, 2B, SEA
Though he may be persona non grata to Yankee faithful, Robinson Cano has plenty of fans—at least 456,000 of them on Twitter.
Cano had one of the sexiest fleets of cars among MLB players before ever signing a 10-year, $240-million contract with Seattle this winter. Among his fleet are a Range Rover Sport, custom Porsche Panamera 4S and Ferrari California.
The first Roc Nation Sports client was an executive producer on an episode of Off the Bat, an MLB Fan Cave show airing on MTV2.
He does a ton of charity work:
In my hometown this week donating thousands of toys to children in need. It was amazing to meet so many great kids! pic.twitter.com/cAbsMOSvqT— Robinson Cano (@RobinsonCano) January 10, 2014
And it seems he's got a great sense of humor:
Brandon Phillips, 2B, CIN
Above all, Brandon Phillips is a baseball player, but being an entertainer comes in as a close second.
He loves being mic'd up for games. He goes to great lengths to execute the best photobombs:
As well as clever pranks. In a GQ interview last April, he admitted to putting purple Kool-Aid powder in a teammate's shoe, causing the teammate to think he had a diseased foot!
According to this interview with Bleacher Report's Brian Mazique, he wants to become the first dual-sport professional athlete to play baseball and bowl.
What BP does best, though, is keep it real with his 885,000 Twitter followers (only Swisher has more).
The four-time Gold Glover winner and three-time All-Star pulls some serious weight. Game developers for Sony’s MLB: The Show consulted him and Buster Posey for improvements to the game, and Phillips has fast-tracked a button for fielding grounders bare-handed and tossing the ball behind your back for a double play into production.
Mike Trout, CF, LAA
What does the next "best player in baseball" do in his free time?
He doesn't own a giant mansion or a fleet of flashy cars, yet.
In fact, Mike Trout spent the offseason after his rookie campaign living in his parents' basement in Millville, N.J. And for a 22-year-old living in the second biggest city in the country, Trout's favorite meal comes from hometown restaurant Jim's Lunch.
The man destined to sign a nine-figure contract takes pleasure in man's most archaic exercises: fishing and bowhunting. He claims to have once hauled home a 230-pound deer. Trout's listed as 230 on MLB.com. Not one for tacky taxidermy, Trout says he doesn't shoot anything he doesn't intend to eat.
Ever the humble kid, Mikey still dates his high school sweetheart:
Crazy how time flies.. It's already been 7 years and I couldn't be any happier Love you @JessTara !!!— Mike Trout (@Trouty20) March 17, 2014
While taking in life in LA:
Jeremy Guthrie, P, KC
Few professional athletes are likely to be as comfortable in their own skin as Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie.
Despite the dollars and spotlight afforded him, Guthrie sticks to his roots, even if they may be unpopular. In a fraternity of athletes known for excessive nightlife, Guthrie originally chose to forgo MLB dollars coming out of high school.
When comedian Jay Mohr took a shot at him on national radio, Guthrie responded positively rather than attacking Mohr, and now the two are friends.
It's not all serious with Guthrie, though. He entertains his 72,100 Twitter followers with #ThrowdownThursday, a weekly series of videos featuring him doing dunk contest slams on a short rim.
Adam Jones, CF, BAL
Adam Jones has no qualms speaking exactly what's on his mind.
As the video above shows, he has no remorse in thinking fans who enter the field of play should be subject to some punishment. He also felt it necessary to speak out against the hype of Japanese rookie Masahiro Tanaka in the same week, as reported by ESPN:
"Why don't you ask Tanaka about me? I'm the one who's been over here in the major leagues for a while," the Orioles center fielder said Tuesday, according to Newsday. "Congratulations, he did it over there. Don't make it like he's the dirtiest guy in the world. He was 24-0 -- in Japan."
Perhaps it's part of the #StayHungry motto he reps to his 140,000 followers on Twitter, borne out of his tough road to stardom.
Stay on the grind. If u swing it, hits will come #StayHungry— 10 (@SimplyAJ10) April 12, 2014
But Jones isn't always so serious. He's all about the hijinks, giving pies to the face to the Orioles' mascot and newcomer Nelson Cruz.
Felix Hernandez, P, SEA
While LeBron James more than lives up to the "King James" moniker in the NBA, "King Felix" Hernandez holds his own in MLB.
King Felix lets you know who he's hanging with:
Where he goes in the offseason:
In Venice with my family pic.twitter.com/t3AS5h2SMs— Felix Hernandez (@RealKingFelix) October 4, 2013
And who else he's rooting for:
But Hernandez balances his nine-figure salary lifestyle with being a family man, which comes first.
El mejor regalo mi familia pic.twitter.com/MAzqaQcZ2o— Felix Hernandez (@RealKingFelix) June 17, 2013
And the Mariners dedicated an entire section of Safeco Field to Hernandez. King's Court opened in 2011, featuring discounted tickets, t-shirts and towels on Hernandez's starts (pictured above).