Blue Jays prospect, Anthony Alford is in company with some of the best in MLB players who also played football.
With the 2016 Super Bowl upon us (which is really just a signal that baseball is starting very soon) sports fans will be glued to their TV and variety of snack foods. It might be a good time to talk football, apparently. Even Major League Baseball is getting in on the discussion. You can expect the litany of MLB player tweets, etc. Doug Miller brings us one such example of baseball showing its respect and adoration for its sister (?) sport.
Miller provides us with a list of a dozen MLB players who were also stellar football players. This list contains some names that will not be a surprise.
For example, Deion Sanders is a name that may be familiar to Blue Jays fans. He was playing for Atlanta (both the Braves and the Falcons) in 1992. He was on base during the ‘phantom tag triple play’. After a spectacular catch in CF, Devon White hurled the ball in and Kelly Gruber finished it off by diving to tag Sanders’ heel. Or, so it seemed. The umpire ruled him safe.
Of course, we’ll also remember the great Bo Jackson. He played for the Royals and the White Sox and was an All Star in both the NFL and MLB. The Nike ‘Bo knows…” campaign is one that still gets quoted some 20+ years later. It seems that during the 80’s and 90’s, it was common to find so called “two sport athletes”. Brian Jordan also a guy who played both sports well.
Aside from those who maintained playing careers in both leagues, there is quite a number of guys who gave up football later on in life. Rockies star, Todd Helton gave up the gridiron after a knee injury. Frank Thomas also played, which really isn’t a surprise given his monstrous size. Imagine how many guys turtled when they saw him coming at them. It was surprising (at least to me) to see Kirk Gibson on that list. More recent examples are Joe Mauer, who was an All American quarterback in high school and Jeff Samardzija, who was actually close to playing both sports professionally until he decided on baseball.
This brings us to Anthony Alford. He was drafted under the knowledge that he’d explore both sports. On the most recent episode of the Jays Nest Podcast, Doug Fox of Cluthclings, told us an interesting story as to what was behind his pursuit of both football and baseball. Essentially, being a good old Mississippi boy, Alford felt pressure to pursue football. His athletic ability certainly allowed him to.
It didn’t pan out for him as well as he (or others) may have liked as he didn’t look like he’d be able to make the starting lineup. That made the decision to focus on baseball easier. Of course, he also had former GM, Alex Anthopoulos, nagging him and waving money at him to switch. Alford has spent 2015 (in Australia, Lansing and Dunedin) honing his skills, getting more and more reps in, etc. And, it’s paying off. He is now the organization’s Top Prospect and appears to be set for an appearance in Toronto sooner rather than later.
We shouldn’t use the list presented by Miller as any kind of barometer for expectations for Alford. We should probably wait on any comparisons. I mean, it would be silly to think that he could compare to the great Jackie Robinson, who was also a multi-sport star. But, the one thing that Alford does share with all of these guys is an athleticism that many of us can only dream of.
When you watch the Super Bowl, think about just how difficult it is to play that sport for the guys on the field. Think about the many concussions, the broken bones, the blood sweat and tears that go into playing football at its highest level. Then add the physically demanding grind of baseball on top of that. It gives you a new appreciation for those who were able to do it, let alone excel at both.
*Featured Image Credit: Buck Davidson UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.