Against all odds, baseball season is underway.
The cold memories of Major League Baseball’s lockout have been mostly eradicated by the league’s return, as each of its 30 teams is engaged in their first series this weekend.
Though their fortunes are decided on the gridiron rather than the diamond, the New York Jets took the time to commemorate the first pitches thrown from the hands of their metropolitan brethren.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) April 7, 2022
The Jets’ well-wishes have perhaps played a tiny role in each side’s ongoing success: both the New York Mets and New York Yankees are entering Sunday’s contests with perfect starts.
The Mets have a chance to start their season on the most Amazin’ note, as the chance for a four-game sweep of the Washington Nationals looms on Sunday afternoon (1:35 p.m. ET, SNY). In the evening, the Bronx Bombers will seek to sweep their bitter rivals from Boston at Yankee Stadium (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).
In celebration of baseball’s return, Jet X looks back on the notable bearers of green who made an impact in more than one American pastime.
This young baseball player has turned into a pro football star. Good luck in your big game today, Eric Decker! pic.twitter.com/ipfLvsYt62
— Minnesota Baseball (@GopherBaseball) February 2, 2014
One of the most recent obtainers of a green four-digit yardage season, Eric Decker could’ve been catching a different kind of deep ball.
In addition to his receiving duties with the University of Minnesota, Decker also served as an outfielder on the Gophers’ baseball team, batting .324 over two seasons. It was enough for his name to appear in two MLB drafts, as he was chosen by Milwaukee (2008, 39th round) and the local Twins (2009, 27th) in consecutive seasons before the Denver Broncos chose him in the third round of the NFL’s proceedings in 2010.
Everyone knows about Boomer Esiason‘s gridiron endeavors (including a three-year stint with the Jets) and he has become one of the most well-known fan/insider hybrids of the NHL’s New York Rangers.
Before all that, however, Esiason starred as a pitcher at East Islip High School, notably earning a perfect 15-0 record to go with a 0.93 ERA.
During his time with the Bengals, Esiason jokingly hinted at joining their Riverfront Stadium co-tenants, the Reds, in 1989. “If Bo (Jackson) can do it, I can do it,” Esiason declared in a report from the Chicago Tribune before relenting that ”I had all the pitches…But mostly I was effectively wild.”
Jeremy Kerley’s throwing duties took on a double meaning during his days at Hutto High School in Texas, as he was both a quarterback on the football team and a pitcher (as well as a centerfielder) on the Hippos’ baseball squad.
Before Kerley opted to focus on football at TCU, the four-year letterman attracted attention from the diamond groups at Texas and Stanford. He instead joined up with Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs, where he was converted to a receiver en route to opening his NFL career with the Jets as a fifth-round pick in 2011.
— Brad Everett (@BREAL412) March 15, 2020
If Broadway Joe didn’t listen to his mother and brother, he might’ve been part of a different improbably championship…that of the Miracle Mets’.
Beaver Falls High School played host to Namath’s multi-sport endeavors, including his time on the diamond. Namath’s time as an outfielder drew major league attention and he was a particular admirer of Roberto Clemente of the nearby Pittsburgh Pirates.
Months after Bill Mazeroski’s historic home run beat the Yankees in the 1960 World Series, Namath was leading Beaver Falls to a championship at the same locale of Forbes Field.
In a 2019 appearance on “Fox & Friends”, Namath said he was close to signing a deal with the Chicago Cubs, but his mother Rose and brother Bob intervened.
“My mother made the decision,” Namath told host Brian Kilmeade. “It was a time where you still listened to your parents and your big brothers and we had a family meeting. My mom says ‘Oh, I want you to go to college.’ My brother Bob hit the table with his fist and said ‘you’re going to college.”
The Cubs’ loss, obviously, became the Jets’ gain.
Johnny Sample is perhaps best known for partaking in some of the greatest and most impactful games in NFL history, including Super Bowl III with the Jets and the 1958 NFL Championship Game with the Baltimore Colts.
Before that, however, the future Jets championship hero was making a difference on the diamond, notably batting .418 in his final season at Maryland State (now Maryland Eastern Shore).
In the end, the Baltimore Colts offered him a more lucrative contract than the Philadelphia Phillies, placing Sample on a gridiron path.
But White was a different kind of thrower up to his junior year of high school. Boasting a strong fastball, the Florida-born White was a pitcher at NSU University School in Fort Lauderdale and posted a 0.43 ERA in his last campaign.
Football eventually fully took over White’s athletic career, but he nonetheless left an impression.
“He was a stud for us,” White’s baseball head coach Rich Hofman told Tyler Greenawalt of Jets Wire shortly before the Halloween takeover against the Bengals. “Had he concentrated on baseball, he would have for sure been a major college player because of his size and his pitching repertoire.”
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags