Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pat White's Royal Audible

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

What a week for former Miami Dolphins quarterback Pat White.

He failed to make the Dolphins 53-man roster and received no calls from the pass happy Canadian Football League.

The UFL could have been an option for the 6-0, 197 pound product of West Virginia, but now he's going to take his arm to the Kansas City Royals, who signed White to a minor league contract.

Instead of playing in NFL Stadiums this fall, White could be headed to the Arizona Fall League to get back in the swing of things. The Royals Spring Training Headquarters are in Surprise, Arizona.

White is no stranger to the diamond as he was a star pitcher and outfielder at Daphne High School in Alabama and led his team to a pair of state championships in three years.

The Anaheim Angels selected him in the fourth round of the 2004 draft and offered him a six-figure bonus to play that sport. He became a Mountaineer instead.

The Royals are the same franchise where 1985 Auburn Tigers Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson played. Jackson went on to have a productive baseball career, but his decision to play on the diamond instead of the gridiron is largely attributed to not wanting to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who drafted Jackson first overall in the 1986 NFL Draft.

Jackson never played a down at the torn down Tampa Stadium.

Bo is best known in baseball for hitting a monstrous 448 blast in the 1989 All-Star Game in his first at bat during the bottom of the first inning. He would go on an earn the MVP Award as the American League defeated the National League 5-3 at Anaheim Stadium.

Bo would have a productive baseball career with the Royals, Chicago White Sox and California Angels. Jackson was selected in the seventh round of the 1987 NFL Draft, 183 overall, by the Los Angeles Raiders, as Owner Al Davis agreed to pay him a full-time running back salary, yet allowed him to play baseball.

In his brief NFL career, Jackson rushed for 2,792 yards, 16 touchdowns with a 5.4 yard average. Jackson's defining moment in his NFL career occurred in 1987 when he rushed for 221 yards in a Monday Night Football contest against the Seattle Seahawks. During the game, he ran over Seattle linebacker Brian Bosworth, who had insulted Jackson at a media event before the game that he would contain him, but Bo had the last laugh.

Have we seen the last of White on the gridiron?

Time will tell.

But here are some of the other prominent players that have taken the football to baseball route. They found the diamond to be much more prosperous than the gridiron.

When Hall of Fame Quarterback John Elway vowed he'd never play for Robert Irsay as a member of the Baltimore Colts, he meant it!

Drafted as the top player selected in the 1983 NFL draft, Elway played in the New York Yankees farm system before he was traded to the Denver Broncos. Elway simply used the Yankees as leverage to force this trade, trading Irsay for the late George Steinbrenner.

The move worked. The rest is history.

Former Michigan State Spartans wide receiver Kirk Gibson was drafted by the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals but elected to play for his hometown Detroit Tigers. Gibson is best known for hitting a memorable World Series home run when the Tigers defeated the San Diego Padres in 1984. He hit another dramatic World Series round tripper in 1988 as the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Oakland A's. His pinch-hit homer off Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley remains one of the greatest moments in baseball history. Gibson is currently the interim manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Deion Sanders played 14-seasons in the NFL and played a nine-year, part-time baseball career, playing in 641 games with four teams. He had a career batting average of .263 with 558 hits and 186 stolen bases.

Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton was ahead of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning on the depth chart at the University of Tennessee. But injuries saw Manning move ahead of Helton, who was a two-sport star. Todd chose to pursue a baseball career that saw him become a first round selection of the Rockies, eighth overall, in the 1995 Major League Baseball Draft.

Helton, 37, is a lifetime .324 hitter, five-time All-Star, three-time National League Gold Glove Winner and is the first player in MLB history to hit 35 doubles in 10 straight seasons. Helton made the Rockies roster in 1997. The closest he came to playing in an NFL Stadium was when the Rockies and Broncos shared Mile High Stadium.

The fans in Denver have been fortunate to have Helton and Elway's career overlap so they could enjoy two of the best athletes in this generation. If there is a Hall of Fame in the Rocky Mountain Area, these two would be in it.

Helton's No. 17 jersey will eventually be retired at Coors Field.

I'm sure there are other baseball to football connections that I haven't mentioned and I encourage you readers to mention others. But these are the ones that stand out and as smart as White is, I'm sure, he's heard of the ones that I've mentioned.

We'll see if White eventually joins this group and trades "The Wildcat" for a "Wild Ride" in a sport where the careers are much longer on the baseball diamond. The contracts are also guaranteed. If he stays with baseball, he won't have to worried about being locked out of his sport next March because he'll be in Spring Training having done the "Royal Audible."

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.


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