…well, according to Tim Kurkjian, the answer to that question is a resounding yes. In his article on ESPN.com, he goes into detail as to why he thinks that Baseball players are more athletically gifted overall than athletes in the NBA, NFL, or NHL. Hear me out though, Kurkjian makes some great points. After speaking with a large amount of MLB players, Kurkjian makes the estimate that about 75% of current MLB players have dunked a basketball at least once in their lifetime. This makes sense because not only is the average height of a MLB pitcher just shy of 6’3″, but there are nineteen players that measure over 6’7″. The upcoming stats are also pretty eye-opening:
Brad Wilkerson (somewhat decent former MLB player) was all-state in four sports in Kentucky during his high school years. Joe Mauer was an all-state basketball player in Minnesota. He claims he was a “defensive specialist,” yet he averaged 22 points per game his senior year. Austin Jackson is quite positive that if he focused on basketball instead of baseball, he’d be in the NBA right now. Matt Kemp got recruited by Oklahoma to play college basketball. Chris Young (Mets) and Will Venable (Padres) played college basketball at Princeton. Out of high school, Carl Crawford was recruited to play basketball at UCLA and play football at Nebraska. Grady Sizemore rushed for more than 3,000 yards in his senior year of high school. While he was not playing baseball, Jacoby Ellsbury worked out with the Oregon State basketball team. What I think is most appalling is that Al Kaline said that in high school, he was a better basketball player than baseball player, yet he won a Major League batting title at the tender age of 20.
Kurkjian pointed out that he didn’t want to put down other athletes because there are plenty of gifted multi-sport athletes in the other three major professional sports, but there seems to be an abundance of well-rounded athletes in Major League Baseball. It’s actually quite funny to see superstars in other sports struggle to complete simple baseball skills. There was a report that LeBron James took batting practice with a Major League team (I’m assuming the Indians) and according to an anonymous Major Leaguer, “he couldn’t even get it out of the cage.” Also, Larry Fitzgerald is one of the most physically gifted football players in the NFL, but when he threw out the first pitch of a baseball game, he looked extremely uncomfortable (sorry Matt, I know you love him, but it’s true).
It’s funny when some critics don’t consider baseball one of the hardest sports out there. One of the most difficult things to do in sports is to hit a moving ball. Whenever someone made fun of the athletic ability of baseball players, I enjoyed handing them a bat and saying, “Here, go hit a curveball.”
Adam Jones was quoted in Kurkjian’s article by saying, “I’ve told players from other sports, We [baseball players] could play your sport than you can play our sport.” A little cocky? Just a tad. Is he right? More often than not, I think so.