Pro baseball players that also played college or professional basketball

6 Jan

Professional athletes often love to believe they can do it all and baseball players are perhaps the most notorious when it comes to this belief. Every year when spring training is hitting full stride and March Madness has the nation’s attention discussion of Tim Stoddard and Kenny Lofton always hit’s the airwaves. Why you may wonder? The answer is they were MLB players that also played in the final four of the NCAA tournament. When you consider all the baseball players in MLB history, it’s a pretty impressive feat. They aren’t the only MLB players to have to shine in college basketball though.

Dave Winfield was a standout athlete at Minnesota State not just playing baseball, but basketball as well. At 6’6” Winfield was a force on the court, and his coach Bill Musselman called him the best rebounded he ever saw in his life – college or NBA.  Winfield carried Minnesota to a Big Ten championship that snapped a 53 year drought.  Winfield was so talented he was not only drafted by the San Diego Padres, but the Atlanta hawks and Utah Stars as well. Even the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL drafted him and he didn’t play college football! Only he and Dave Logan have ever been drafted by three different professional sports.

Danny Ainge is often thought of as a Boston Celtic with good reason – he helped them win some hardware. He was a huge force while playing collegiate at Brigham Young and turned in one of the greatest plays in NCAA tournament history. What people often forget is Ainge was a two sports star as the Toronto Blue Jays drafted him in 1977 and he debuted in 1979 with the big team. Ainge was actually a baseball player first and didn’t get drafted by the Celtics until 1981. To this day Ainge is still the youngest player to hit an MLB homerun in franchise history at 20 years 77 days old.

Tony Gwynn was as close to the reincarnation of Ted Williams at the plate as the game of baseball has seen, but he was also a point guard for San Diego State University where he is now the head baseball coach. Gwynn set the Aztec’s record for assists and was often called one of the best playmakers in the game while he was in college thanks to his amazing court vision. He was drafted by the then San Diego Clippers but opted to play baseball for the Padres instead.

Tim Stoddard was a hulking figure on the mound at 6’7” over his 14 year MLB career with 6 teams – most notably the Orioles. He was an outstanding basketball player as well though helping lead his HS basketball team to a 29-0 season and Indiana State Championship win. Bigger than that, he was the starting forward on N.C. State’s 1975 team that went 30-1 winning the NCAA tournament by snapping UCLA’s 7 year string of victories.

Kenny Lofton was one of the premiere leadoff hitters and base stealers in baseball during his MLB career in which he played with 11 teams (most notably the Indians), but he was also the third string guard on the 1988 Arizona Wildcats that went to the NCAA tournament final four. He backed up Steve Kerr and Craig McMillan that year, but did get to start eventually and set the school record for season and career steals. Lofton is still, along with Tim Stoddard, one of only two MLB players to not just appear in an NCAA final four game, but also to play in the World Series.

Tony Clark, known as “Stretch”,  made a good living in the MLB by having amazing plate coverage and a sickening wingspan that came with his 6’7” frame that made him an ideal first baseman blessed with soft hands. As a senior at Christian HS in El Cajon, California, Clark averaged 43.7ppg, scored 2,549 career points, and surpassed Bill Walton’s Sand Diego scoring record for a single season with 1.337 points. According to his website and MLB Hot Stove, he played college basketball for both the Arizona wildcats and San Diego State University.

Chris Young of the San Diego Padres is a serviceable pitcher at the MLB level, but while at Princeton his 6’10” frame helped make him both the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in baseball and basketball unanimously. He scored double digits 22 times, set a school record with 87 blocked shots in a season . In 2002 the Sacramento Kings offered him a guaranteed 2 year contract he declined.

Dave DeBusschere who was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history has some MLB roots. Before appearing with the Detroit Pistons later in 1962, DeBusschere was signed by the Chicago White Sox as a pitcher. He also played some ball at the University of Detroit to round out the connection of this theme.

Mark Hendrickson of the Baltimore Orioles played college baseball and basketball at Washington State University. Twice he was named to the All-Pac 10 Conference team in basketball. He is second in school history in career rebounds pulling them down at a rate of 8.6rpg. He was also the 31st overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Gene Conley made his MLB debut with the Boston braves in 1952. Midway through his baseball career he signed a contract to play with the Wilkes-Barre barons of the ABL before going on to play 6 seasons with the Knicks and Celtics. He continued his baseball career however playing until 1963. He played college basketball at Washington State University where he averaged 20ppg and was twice an All-American team honorable mention.

Ron Reed who holds the distinction of being the winning pitcher in the game Hank Aaron hit his 715th homer, and one of only 8 players in MLB history to record 100 wins and saves played his college basketball at Notre Dame and eventually spent some time with the Detroit Pistons from 1965-1967 who drafted him third overall in 1965.

Dick Groat had a great MLB career with 4 teams (most notably the Pirates) from 1952-1967,  but he was also a 2 time All-American in basketball and baseball at Duke University. He was also the 3rd overall pick in the 1952 NBA draft by the Fort Wayne Pistons, but he only played in 26 games during one season before opting to play baseball exclusively. In 2007 he was inducted to the National Collegiate basketball hall of fame. His #10 basketball jersey was retired by Duke.

The list could go on and on. A few notable names that could easily appear include Chuck Connors, Steve Hamilton, Dick Ricketts, Cotton Nash, and Frank Baumholtz. Baseball or basketball, these guys could field quite a team!

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