It’s August and that usually means back-to-school sales, more summer heat, and of course, football.
While Major League Baseball still has a couple of months left in its super long season, August is when football starts to creep back into the psyche of sports fans. August is also when the eternal “how-come-preseason-NFL-football-has-priority-over-regular-season-MLB-games-on-my-TV?!” debates go down on social media.
With that as a backdrop, I thought it’d be fun to bring football and baseball together in a conciliatory effort to bridge the football vs. baseball divide our nation suffers from. If you’re entrenched on either side of this debate, bear me with me here. This is an exercise in fun.
For some historical context, we have to look back at a few MLB players that once excelled at football:
Jackie Robinson — Did you know that Jackie lettered in football while at UCLA? Jackie led the nation in punt return average yards in his junior year (1939), and during his senior year (1940), Jackie led UCLA in passing, rushing, scoring and punt returns.
Deion Sanders — Neon Deion aka Prime Time is the only man to ever play in a Super Bowl and a World Series. Deion won two Super Bowl rings while at the same time embarking on a 12-year big league career with 4 MLB teams.
Bo Jackson — If you have never seen the Nike “Bo Knows” commercials from the 1990s do yourself a favor and find them on YouTube immediately, here is the cross-training commercial. Bo won the Heisman Trophy at Auburn in 1985 and while his NFL career was short-lived, he did go on to become an MLB masher for the Royals and White Sox. And since we’re on YouTube, here’s Bo’s monster home run during the 1989 All-Star Game.
Kirk Gibson — The man who hit one of the most legendary World Series home runs was a wide receiver at Michigan State University and actually earned All-America accolades in the Big Ten conference.
Jeff Samardzija — A two-way phenom at the University of Notre Dame (GO IRISH!!), “Shark” attacked the wide receiver position with gusto and was a touchdown machine during his tenure while moonlighting as a hard-throwing pitcher for the Irish baseball team. You can read about his time at Notre Dame here (h/t @OneFootDown). Samardzija opted out of the NFL Draft and made the MLB his home (drafted by the Cubs in 2006).
That’s just a brief history of MLB players with gridiron experience. Let’s move on to baseball today. I want to field a football team using current MLB rosters, and previous football experience is by no means a prerequisite. This is just me listing who I think would field the best football team in baseball based on size, demeanor, and overall athleticism.
(NOTE: some players may be asked to play both offense and defense, hope they stay hydrated)
Quarterback — Joey Gallo (Rangers): Gallo is 6’5, 235lbs, is athletic, surprisingly swift, and has a cannon for an arm. Gallo can escape the pocket and fire a ball 75-yards downfield with relative ease. There is no debate here.
Running back — Mike Trout (Angels): Trout is a healthy 6’2, 235lbs who has more muscle in his neck than most people have in their entire bodies. Trout has the agility and athleticism to combine for speed bursts downfield while also being able to power in from a heavy goal line formation.
Tight End — Aaron Judge (Yankees): Judge comes in at 6’7, 285lbs and this is before he puts on football cleats. Judge will block well but he will make his money in the Red Zone, just loft the ball in his direction and he’ll do the rest. There is no debate here [taps gavel].
Wide Receiver — Freddie Freeman (Braves): Freeman is 6’5, 220lb and bats left while throwing with his right hand so we know he has the size and can use both hands. Not a deep threat but definitely an option for key short yardage situations.
Wide Receiver (2) — Denard Span (Mariners): Span is listed at 6’0, 210lbs and still has more than enough speed and agility/make-you-miss to take a short route to the house.
Wide Receiver (3) — Kolten Wong (Cardinals): Wong, at 5’9, 185lbs is the perfect size to be a threat at the slot receiver position, however please don’t expect him to rap nearly as well as Cole Beasley does.
Offensive Linemen — Bartolo Colon (Rangers), Evan Gattis (Astros), Tyler Flowers (Braves), Brian Flynn (Royals), Ivan Nova (Pirates)
Linebacker — Bryce Harper (Nationals): Harper is 6’3, 225lbs and perfectly suited to cover speedy running backs as well as cover tight ends. While he may not be the heavy run-stopper, he’s your go-to linebacker especially in 3rd down packages.
Linebacker (2) — Kyle Schwarber (Cubs): Schwarber, at 6’0, 238lbs is your run stopper. He’ll stuff you at the goal line, rip your helmet off your head, and throw it so high up it’ll get stuck on top of the scoreboard forever.
Linebacker (3) — Carlos Gomez (Rays): Gomez is a solid 6’3, 225lbs who has the lower body strength to stop the run, the arm/hand size to break up passes, and the shrill dolphin voice needed to distract any quarterback’s cadence.
Strong safety — Keone Kela (Pirates): Kela is 6’1, 220lb and has maybe 3% body fat while the remaining 97% is a quiet fury that is just waiting to unleash itself on some foolhardy receiver who makes the mistake of catching a football in the vicinity of Kela.
** ALTERNATE SAFETIES: Mike Trout (Angels), Yasiel Puig (Dodgers)
Free safety — George Springer (Astros): Springer is 6’3, 220lb and has the speed to catch any wayward receivers or fast running backs.
Defensive backs — Ian Desmond (Rockies), Niko Goodrum (Tigers), Francisco Lindor (Cleveland), Marcus Semien (Athletics), Wilmer Flores (Mets), Isiah Kiner-Falefa (Rangers)
Defensive Line — Albert Pujols (Angels), Tommy Hunter (Phillies), Joe Jimenez (Tigers), Giancarlo Stanton (Yankees)
Kicker — Mitch Moreland (Red Sox): yes I know Moreland is 6’2, 235lbs but I also know Moreland is an #OffensiveThreat and if it worked out for Sebastian Janikowski (6’2, 240lbs) then I want my kicker to be thicc.
Punter — Peter Moylan (Braves): Moylan, 6’3, 220lb was born in Australia and I have to assume he played Australian Rules Football. If he did play, then he’s probably booted a football a few times in his life so guess what, he’s our punter. The science here is flawless.
Kick Returner — Jose Altuve (Astros): Altuve is 5’6, 170lbs of pure speed, energy, and breakaway agility. If we can design our kick return formations to morph into the shape of the Mighty Ducks’ Flying V formation, Altuve is guaranteed to take it to the house 88% of the time.
Punt Returner — Delino DeShields (Rangers): DeShields is 5’10, 200lbs and is quite frankly, a blur when he picks up momentum.
This is my baseball football team. The fun here is that you can come up with your own version (I highly encourage you to do so). It’s entirely possible to enjoy the remaining MLB season while also enjoying the upcoming football season, whether you’re an NFL or NCAA person.