NEW YORK (AP) – Just call him Johnny Baseball.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 28th round of the Major League Baseball draft Saturday – the 837th player taken.
Manziel was listed as a shortstop for Texas A&M, although he never played for the Aggies as he focused on football. He hasn’t played baseball since high school and probably won’t see the diamond again as he embarks on his NFL career, but was happy the Padres took a swing at him.
Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) June 07, 2014
Mike Dee, the Padres’ president and CEO, tweeted back: “Best athlete on the board… #JohnnyBaseball.”
Manziel, the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012, was taken by the Browns with the 22nd overall pick in the NFL draft last month.
“It was kind of, ‘Why not?'” Padres general manager Josh Byrnes said Saturday before the Padres hosted the Washington Nationals.
In May 2013, Manziel visited the Padres when he was in San Diego to work with a quarterbacks coach.
“He certainly loves baseball,” Byrnes said. “We kind of talked about it at that time, ‘Do you want us to draft you?’ He said, ‘Yeah, absolutely.'”
Why in the 28th round?
“We really liked our 27th-rounder,” Byrnes said.
Asked the odds of actually signing Manziel, Byrnes, a big football fan, just smiled.
Manziel played baseball and football at Tivy High School in Kerrville, Texas, and asked Texas A&M coaches about being part of the baseball team before winning the Aggies’ starting quarterback job as a redshirt freshman.
Earlier this week, Manziel – decked out in an Indians jersey – was set to throw out the first pitch in Cleveland before the Indians played Boston. He warmed up earlier with Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin, but his toss was washed out by rain that delayed the start.
But, in May 2013, Manziel took batting practice with the Padres at Petco Park and tossed out a football-style first pitch as he dropped back, scrambled to the side of the mound and floated a bootleg “pass” to San Diego outfielder Mark Kotsay, who caught it behind his back with his glove.
On Manziel’s first swing in batting practice, the bat flew out of his hands, but he settled down and later drove a pitch off the right-field wall.
“I didn’t know he played baseball,” Padres right-hander Ian Kennedy said Saturday. “Anybody in Texas probably plays all those sports, football, baseball.”
Padres closer Huston Street, who pitched at Texas and whose late father, James, played quarterback for the Longhorns, liked the pick, even if Manziel did play for the Aggies.
“I’m a fan. I think he’s an exciting player,” Street said. “I think he’s good for sport. I think he plays hard. I don’t know if he’ll ever wear a Padre uniform, but it sure is exciting that the organization took him. I know he hung out here last year a couple times and everybody really enjoyed his presence. Everybody liked him. I came away from that day thinking, ‘Man, that’s a good dude, that’s a cool guy.’ It seemed like he was a very focused, mentally strong guy. He wanted to do something. We know what he can do in football.
“Heck, if he wants to come out here and hang around before games … I don’t know if they let 28th-round picks do that,” Street said. “But he’s a great athlete. I don’t think anybody expects to see him in the big leagues, but maybe he’s going to try and do both. I don’t know. If he does, he’s one of the more competitive people I’ve been around. We’ll see what happens with his football career. He’s potentially got a baseball one.”
Street isn’t sure if Johnny Football would try both sports.
“I would tell him to don’t try to be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none,” Street said. “But at the same time, it’s been done before. I don’t know about at the quarterback position. A little bit tougher position.”
Big-time quarterbacks are no stranger to recent Major League Baseball drafts. John Elway, Dan Marino, Tom Brady, Daunte Culpepper, Colin Kaepernick and Jake Locker were all drafted by big league teams but instead stuck to the gridiron.
Russell Wilson of the Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks was a fifth-rounder by Baltimore out of high school in 2007, but opted to go to North Carolina State. He was a fourth-round pick of Colorado in 2010 and played in the Rockies’ system as a second baseman.
Wilson, who had transferred to Wisconsin, told the Rockies in January 2012 that he wanted to pursue an NFL career, and in December 2013 was acquired by the Texas Rangers in the Rule 5 draft. A few weeks after winning the Super Bowl, Wilson attended Rangers spring training and participated in infield drills.
Next year, Florida State’s Jameis Winston could be in the same situation as Manziel. The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback also is a hard-throwing closer for the Seminoles’ baseball team. Winston was already a 15th-round pick of the Rangers in 2012.
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