As a baseball fan, I obviously can’t wait until Spring Training begins in a couple of weeks (Opening Day is now just under 60 days away). But as an overall sports fan, I can’t wait for Super Bowl 50 on Sunday night between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos.
You may be wondering why I, a die-hard baseball fan at heart, would even be discussing the Super Bowl at all on a baseball blog — other than the fact that my home state’s Panthers are in the big game. Well, the answer is that there are numerous baseball connections within this year’s Super Bowl matchup, and I wanted to take the time to go over just a few of them.
To kick things off (pun intended), I’ll begin with the connection the Super Bowl’s starting quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Cam Newton, have to baseball.
Peyton Manning was never drafted by a professional baseball team as a number of other NFL quarterbacks have been, but he does have a big connection to the sport. Manning was the back-up quarterback to former All-Star Rockies’ slugger, Todd Helton, at the University of Tennessee back in 1994. The duo ultimately went in two different directions, but each made their marks in their given sports. Although the story of their connection has been told countless times before, it’s still an interesting piece of information to acknowledge, nonetheless.
As with Manning, Cam Newton was never drafted by a big league team, largely due to the fact that he gave up baseball at age 14 for fear of getting hit by the ball (ironic, now that he faces getting sacked on a weekly basis by 250-pound linebackers). While baseball wasn’t the sport for Newton, I’d say that by leading the Panthers to a 15-1 record this season and ultimately to the Super Bowl, Newton definitely discovered the right sport for him.
Digging deeper into each team’s lineups, though there are numerous players who played baseball at one point or another in their past, with some even being drafted by a major league team, the most intriguing case from both lineups is undoubtedly the Panthers’ Shaq Thompson.
Thompson was drafted by the Red Sox in the 18th round of the 2012 draft, but his career wound up being extremely short lived. In 39 at-bats with the Red Sox’ Gulf Coast League team (the absolute lowest level in their organization), Thompson went hitless and struck out 37 times. That’s right — 37 strikeouts out of 39 at-bats. Baseball was clearly not going to work out, but by making it to the Super Bowl, it’s obvious that football did.
In the end, while all of those baseball connections to the Super Bowl are interesting, I still remain a baseball fan through and through and am avidly counting down the days until baseball gets going again. With the Super Bowl upon us, that signals that Spring Training is just around the corner and that the long wait of the offseason is almost over. As baseball Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby put it, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”