Earlier this week, Seattle Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson began his spring training stint with the New York Yankees. While Wilson’s name is synonymous with his football career (rightfully so as a Super Bowl Champ and 4-time Pro Bowler), he’s also pretty good at baseball. A second basemen, Wilson’s baseball career has included time with the Colorado Rockies (2 years in their farm system) and Texas Rangers. A lifelong Yankees fan, the Rangers and Yankees facilitated the trade that would allow him to be part of they team he cheered for growing up.
During his 6-day stint with the team in Spring Training, Wilson isn’t expected to see the field during any games, but the exercise isn’t entirely for publicity’s sake from the Yankees’ perspective. Wilson’s sports leadership is a big part of why Yankee’s manager Aaron Boone and GM Brian Cashman were so keen on having the Seahawks superstar join the team for a few days, hoping this would have an impact the Yankee clubhouse on the field this year.
While even the draw of a chance at playing with the organization he grew up cheering for isn’t going to warrant Wilson leaving his more than successful gig with the Seahawks, it’s an intriguing story. Russell Wilson isn’t the first multi-sport athlete either, there have been many over the years.
Let’s take a look at a few others…
Perhaps the most well-known multi-sport athlete not named Bo Jackson or Jim Thorpe. Sanders played parts of 9 seasons in the MLB and 14 seasons in the NFL. While he collected football accolades (8-time Pro Bowler, 2-time Super Bowl Champion, 1990s All-Decade Team – just to name a few) he also enjoyed a very good part-time baseball career. Some people devote their whole lives to baseball and they still couldn’t become a Triples Champion; Sanders only played baseball part-time and he earned the National League achievement in 1992. Here’ are 2 other facts that prove just how great Sanders is – He is the only person to hit a home run and score a touchdown in the same week. He is also the only person to win a Super Bowl and a World Series. It’s safe to say, he’s truly earned the nickname Primetime.
Both Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan share a unique connection. They both played for the Falcons and Braves. What’s with the two-sport athletes in Atlanta? Jordan’s at-bat song was fittingly, Welcome to Atlanta by Jermaine Dupri ft. Ludacris. Jordan played 3 years in the NFL as a safety, followed by 15 seasons as an outfielder in the MLB. He’s the only player to be named an All-Star in both leagues.
Before he became known as Trader Dan, Ainge had a pretty solid two-sport career. He started in the MLB, playing 3 seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays. After that, he left baseball to focus on his basketball career. In hindsight that was an excellent decision. 11,964 points, 2 NBA Championships and an All-Star appearance later – Ainge had a very successful NBA career. He played alongside the likes of legends Larry Bird and Charles Barkley in his 14 seasons. After he was done playing, he parlayed his basketball knowledge into a job in the Boston Celtics’ front office, where he has since earned the title Trader Dan for his willingness to make big moves.
Walker is best known for his time in the USFL and NFL but during his offseasons he also forayed into other sports. Walker was part of the 1992 American Olympic bobsled team. After participating on the 4-man and 2-man bobsled teams, Walker rushed for over 1,000 yards the next NFL season. While many players are multi-sport athletes, few (Walker, Deion, Bo, etc) compete in both sports at the same time. To go from a full football season to preparing for the Olympics and then back to the NFL is pretty crazy. But that’s not the craziest thing about Herschel Walker. Once he finished his remarkable football career, he became an MMA fighter at the age of 48. He went an undefeated 2-0 in his fighting career, which is impressive given his age.
Brady, Marino, Elway
What do Tom Brady, Dan Marino, and John Elway have in common? Aside from being 3 of the best NFL quarterbacks of all time, they were also all drafted into the MLB. Their careers as baseball players had varying degrees of success. John Elway had the best baseball career of the bunch. George Steinbrenner even drew comparisons between Elway and baseball legends Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. That’s quite the compliment. While that might have been a stretch, Denver Broncos’ fans can partially thank minor baseball’s Oneonta Tigers for Elway’s 5 Super Bowl appearances and all of the records that came with it. Elway used his potential baseball career to force the Baltimore Colts into trading him after they drafted him 1st overall.
Selected in the 4th round of the 1979 MLB draft by the Kansas City Royals, Marino never signed with the team. Fun fact: he was also the 1st ever draft pick in the aforementioned USFL, when he was selected by the Los Angeles Express. He never signed in the USFL either. Instead, he had a historic 17-season NFL career with the Miami Dolphins.
Tom Brady was a catcher (the irony?) who was drafted but never signed by the Montreal Expos. Instead, Brady decided to go to the University of Michigan where he began his legendary career.
This week’s news of Russell Wilson taking batting practice next to Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton (who combined for 111 home runs last year, and achieved both the AL and NL Home Run titles) is pretty cool. The list of multi-sport athletes is probably longer than you’d think but nevertheless, being an NFL QB who can hold their own and hit 6 home runs in a batting practice in a group full of MLB stars is impressive.