Philadelphia – The Eagles probably didn’t know how close they were to losing a trading opportunity even with AJ Brown.
That’s because three months before the Eagles pulled out of the night trade with the Tennessee Titans, Brown had thoughts about trading himself out of the NFL entirely in order to play his first love — baseball for the San Diego Padres.
Instead of collaborating with Galen Hurts, Brown could have teamed up with Manny Machado.
“I was very serious,” Brown told the Delawareonline.com/Delaware News Journal of playing baseball. “[The Padres]called me. They were about to invite me to spring training. They were just waiting for an answer from me.”
But there was one hitch.
Brown said the Padres weren’t interested in becoming the next dual-sport superstar like Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders, playing baseball until late summer before switching to football.
“They were telling me if I (still) were going to play football, then I couldn’t play baseball,” Brown said. “I can’t just play with (baseball). So it kind of killed my chance at the moment.”
“Who do you know?” Brown added. “Maybe when I play football, I’ll go play baseball.”
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Brown was considering catching volleys instead of touchdown passes because he was frustrated about the lack of progress in extending his contract with the Titans.
That was when he retweeted a post about Bo Jackson, who played soccer and baseball during the ’90s, and added the caption, “Sometimes I think about playing both sports again. All I need is a Padres workout.” Sunglasses added on sun emoji.
Padres had drafted Browns in the 19th round, 564th overall, in the 2016 draft. That was 563 spots after the Velez’s team picked Mickey Moniak for first overall. Monyak, like Brown, is a midfielder. But Monyak never came out. He was hitting 0.130 for the Phillies this summer when he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels.
Brown insisted that he would have been an early pick had he only focused on baseball while in high school in Starkville, Mississippi. But Brown made it clear at the time that he was going to college in Mississippi to play football.
“I fell in love with football in high school,” Brown said. “It was more fun to score goals.”
Padres took a chance anyway, just in case Brown changes his mind one day.
Padres District Scout Stephen Moritz Brown followed extensively in high school. He told MLB.com in February that he had named Brown a future daily major in the major tournaments.
“It was like watching an adult man in a field of high school students,” Moretz told MLB.com. “The first time I saw him, I knew this was a different kind of athlete than the 99 percent of the players we’d be exploring.”
The Eagles have seen this since they traded Brown in April, sending the Titans into the first and third rounds. Brown had shot 10 times for 155 yards in his first game as an eagle, with a 38-35 victory over the Detroit Lions on September 11. He followed that up by 69 yards last Monday night in the Eagles’ 24-7 win over Minnesota. Vikings.
And Brown, who is built like a running back at 6-foot-1, 226 pounds, can pass defenders on deep balls and after catching the ball into space.
Brown showed it against the Lions in a 54-yard pass from Hurts, grabbing the ball over his shoulder, like a quarterback chasing a deep ball into the gap in the center-left field.
This is no accident, Brown said.
“Playing baseball definitely helps me with my hand-eye coordination,” Brown said. “Following the ball over the shoulder. I think tracking a soccer ball is much easier than tracking a small baseball. This helps me with the game I’m playing today. My hand-eye coordination, looking at catching the ball.”
Eagles talk about baseball
Brown isn’t the only Eagles player to say baseball helped him with football.
Hurts admitted last week that he has learned how to glide in baseball, and that translates to the football field when he avoids getting hit by defenders after a long distance.
“I played baseball as a kid, so I always had a nice slip,” Hurts said. “It kind of started in Alabama. The coach was telling me to get off, so I got off. I slipped in high school (football) too.
“I always try to protect myself when I need to, I try to run the game that way.”
Wide receiver DeVonta Smith said baseball helps him with hand-eye coordination. Smith said he played baseball until high school when he chose track as a springtime sport.
When asked how good he was, Smith said, “I was good enough.”
“I kind of wish I’d stick with it,” Smith added. “Baseball is fun. I just liked the running track more.”
Smith held a softball charity event last June in Allentown, where several Eagles players, along with Cowboys’ Micah Parsons and others, participated in a home derby before any game was played.
Brown won the home derby, defeating Parsons in the overtime round. But Hurts won the game with Homer getting close and earning the game’s MVP award.
However, Brown underestimated Herz’s achievements.
“This isn’t baseball,” Brown said with a laugh. “It’s softball.”
Smith Brown ranked at the top as a baseball player for the Eagles, followed by Hurts and linebacker Avonte Maddox.
“People don’t realize that baseball is one of the hardest sports to play,” Smith said. “But it was funny to go in there and see who can actually play.”
Sit in the back seat
Even after Brown turned down the opportunity to start climbing the minor league ladder for Padres, he still played baseball.
During Brown’s three years at Ole Miss, he would report to Arizona for Padres’ extended spring training program. He was training with other young dropouts and prospects in the Padres system.
But Brown was never willing to give up football. And that was especially true when the Titans picked him up in the second round in 2019.
“I can definitely play,” Brown said of his experience with Padres. “I can compete with the players.” “Once I started to fall in love with football, baseball waned, and I kind of played for the sake of playing.”
Maybe it would stay that way. But after last season, Brown wanted a new contract. He had one year left on his rookie contract, and he felt he deserved to be paid among the top wide receivers in the NFL.
Brown exceeded 1,000 receiving yards in each of the first two seasons. He would have done it again last season, but missed four games through injury and finished with 869 yards in 13 games.
However, Brown was frustrated when the Giants did not give him a new contract with an average annual value of $22 million per year or more. He took to social media to express his frustration. Last spring, he said, the Giants’ best bid did not reach $20 million a year.
This eventually led to his trade with vultures. Within minutes of trading with Brown, the Eagles signed him for a four-year extension worth up to $100 million, with a $56 million guarantee.
At that point, Brown’s baseball foreplay was largely over.
But that doesn’t mean his love for the game is over. Brown just turned 25 last summer, and will turn 29 when the Eagles’ contract expires in 2026.
Michael Jordan was 30 years old when he left the Chicago Bulls after leading the Bulls to their third consecutive NBA Championship to try to reach the Chicago White Sox in 1994. Jordan did not reach the majors before returning to the Bulls in February 1995. He would lead the Bulls to Three more NBA titles.
Brown tweeted last winter: “I promise I’ll do better than Michael Jordan in baseball.”
Unless Brown is willing to give up football, he won’t have a chance. It looks like the days of double-sports for Jackson and Sanders are over, mainly because of the injury risks. Such was the case with Arizona Cardinals quarterback Keeler Murray, who was a first-round pick for the Oakland A in 2018.
Murray chose to go to Oklahoma to play football and never signed with A.
Brown is still thinking about baseball.
When trading with the Eagles, Brown threw the first pitch in the Phillies game. He admitted that his favorite player growing up was Hall of Fame center player Ken Grevey Jr. And that he’s followed Phillies star Bryce Harper’s career since Harper was a teenage prodigy.
“I started playing baseball as soon as I could walk,” Brown said. “Baseball was my first love. To be honest, that’s what I always planned to do – go to MLB and play baseball.”
Sure enough, the Eagles are glad he didn’t. At least for now.
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter @Mfranknfl.