Every year, dozens of the nation's most talented graduating high school athletes have to make a choice between sports. Raw athleticism is often enough to make them stars in whatever they pursue in high school--they are big fish in small ponds. But at the collegiate and professional levels, a greater commitment is required, and so some of the nation's best young baseball talents decide to put down the bat in favor of the pigskin, while would-be All-Pros are lured away from college by huge MLB signing bonuses.
Back in 2012, Shaq Thompson decided he wasn't ready to make that choice just yet. The Red Sox drafted Thompson in the 18th round despite the linebacker's commitment to Washington and all of one year's experience in baseball, taking a flier that Thompson's athletic abilities would translate naturally to baseball. Apparently he thought it was worth a shot as well, because he signed on for a mere $45,000 bonus, with the stipulation that he would play baseball with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League team in summer, and then head to Washington to play football.
It should come as no surprise that giving professional baseball a shot on the side after playing just one year in high school did not lead to much success. For as far away as it is from the major leagues, it's easy to forget that the GCL is full of the nation's best young baseball players. Not just the physically gifted, but those who have made baseball their lives.
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Still, Thompson did not simply struggle. He produced perhaps the worst minor league season of all time: 39 at bats, 37 strikeouts. It boggles the mind.
But there's good news for those who watched that train wreck in progress, feeling worse and worse with every strike three. Baseball clearly didn't work out for him, but football? That's gone quite well. In fact, it's gone so well that Mel Kiper has him projected to go to the Miami Dolphins with the 14th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
The Red Sox have had their fair share of hits and misses when it comes to multi-sport stars. Casey Kelly, Will Middlebrooks, and Brandon Jacobs (the one traded to Chicago, not the former NFL player) all come to mind as players who gave up football for baseball. And Mookie Betts--well, he was the water boy just so he could get access to the weight room, apparently--but that totally still counts!
Shaq Thompson? Clearly a miss. The biggest miss of all. But those other guys also didn't go on to be Day 1 draft picks in the NFL, so let's call it a wash.