Now that the Super Bowl is behind us and pitchers and catchers are getting ready to report, MLB dot com posted an interesting look at ten players who chose to pursue baseball over a potentially lucrative football career.
The most obvious player that fell into that camp for the Chicago Cubs was Jeff Samardzija.
Shark was a phenomenal wide receiver during his time at Notre Dame and nearly helped Brady Quinn and the Irish appear in the National Championship if it hadn’t been for the famous “Bush Push,” against USC.
That being said, he was also a solid pitcher for the baseball team and he would be drafted in the 2006 MLB Draft in the 5th round by the Cubs (he likely would have gone higher if the football questions weren’t lingering).
A Bleacher Report article went into the decision years later and had this poignant breakdown of a few of the reasons Samardzija may have gone the baseball route:
"Not only do baseball careers last far longer than football careers, they emphasized, but baseball contracts are guaranteed. The NFL's aren't. Though you'll likely spend a couple of years in the minor leagues, they told him, and though you'll probably be frustrated at times, your earning power eventually will be far greater in baseball. And the MLB players' union is a strong force, they noted, far better than the NFL's, which you will find to be another enormous benefit."- Scott Miller, Bleacher Report
That proved to be the case. He signed a five-year, $10 million dollar deal with the Cubs out of Notre Dame and he’d go on to sign a five-year $90 million dollar deal with the Giants after the Cubs traded him away to Oakland with Jason Hammel in return for Addison Russell.
Shark is a player that has had a tremendous impact on the Chicago Cubs franchise.
He chose to pursue baseball rather than football at least in part due to the fact that it was the Cubs that had drafted him. He had good seasons for bad Cubs’ teams and wound up being traded for a key piece in the 2016 World Series run, and he made significantly more money in baseball than he likely would have if he’d been a first-round wide receiver in the NFL.
This is the rare case in sports of just about everyone ending up happy at the end of the day.
It will certainly be interesting to see if players continue to follow the path that Samardzija laid out or if the contract sizes have grown enough in the NFL that players may pursue the gridiron.