Danny Ainge and Gene Conley played in the NBA, Deion Saunders and Bo Jackson played in the NFL and John Smoltz played professional golf. It’s not uncommon to find athletes who have excelled at various sports.
Being Canadian, I’m frequently asked if I enjoy watching hockey. The truth? I do. But with that said, it holds nothing to the passion I feel towards baseball. Interestingly enough, there are many athletes who share my passion for both hockey and baseball.
Here are five athletes who have excelled in both hockey and baseball:
Tom Glavine: Before being drafted in the second round of the 1984 MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves, Glavine excelled in hockey. In fact, this five-time 20-game winner and two-time Cy Young Award winner was the captain of his high school hockey team in Billerica, Massachusetts. In his senior year, he recorded 94 points in 23 games, enabling him to be selected in the fourth round as the 69th overall pick by the Los Angeles Kings the same year he caught the eyes of the Braves. How significant was that selection? He was drafted ahead of Brett Hull, Gary Suter and the Kings all-time leading goal scorer, Luc Robatille.
Nyjer Morgan: While Nyjer Morgan is now known for his past six Major League seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers, he was once known for his speed and energy on the ice. Growing up, the California native played in a variety of hockey tournaments across North America and was recruited by the Vernon Vipers in British Columbia, Canada shortly after turning 16. He later played for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League in 1999-2000 and ended up scoring two goals in his first game with the Pats.
Chris Drury: While Drury made a career centered on hockey, becoming a Stanley Cup winner with the Colorado Avalanche and the captain of both the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Rangers, this Connecticut native’s first love was baseball. In fact, in 1989, at only seven years old, Drury threw a complete-game five-hitter to lead his town, Trumbull, to the Little League World Series title. Two months after this game, Drury threw out the ceremonial first pitch in the second game of the 1989 World Series. It’s a wonder if he didn’t get drafted 72nd overall by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1994 NHL Draft if Drury might have thrown additional pitches in other World Series games.
Justin Morneau: Like many Canadians growing up in the 1980s, Morneau was raised idolizing Patrick Roy and dreaming of becoming a hockey goalie. In fact, it’s the reason he wears the number 33. Despite finding success as a goaltender, Morneau only played in a single exhibition game, playing for the Portland Winter Hawks of the WHL in 1997. He states that he realized, “[he] was just better at baseball,” and so jumped at the opportunity to join the Minnesota Twins when they selected him in the third round of the 1999 draft. In 2006, Morneau became only the third Canadian to ever win the MLB MVP Award.
James Riley: Riley is the first player to ever play both professional baseball and professional hockey. A native of New Brunswick, Canada, Riley began his career in hockey, playing 17 games in the NHL, 90 games in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and won the Stanley Cup with the Seattle Metropolitans in 1917. In addition, Riley played professional baseball for twelve seasons, from 1921 to 1932, with the St. Louis Browns and Washington Senators.