March is a busy month in the sports world. The NBA and NHL teams are making their final push for playoff spots. The NFL begins their circus of free agency, trades, and coaching shuffles. Of course the NAHL and junior hockey teams are nearing the end of their season fighting for playoff spots. But for one sport, the season is just beginning. Baseball.
The sport of baseball has had many stars who have become household names, like former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, the controversial career of outfield Barry Bonds, and flame throwing pitchers like the rocket Roger Clemens. Every sport has those names that stand out. But sometimes, those names transfer between major market sports. The great Bo Jackson and primetime Deion Sanders, among many others, have made careers in both the NFL and Major League Baseball. The 6’9” Mark Hendrickson played in the NBA before turning his career to Major League Baseball. Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz also played professional golf.
But when it comes to the sport of hockey, the list is fairly short of dual-sport stars. But here is a list of professional baseball players who also laced up the skates towards achieving professional hockey careers.
One of the most dominant pitchers of his time, Tom Glavine was a 5-time 20 game winner, 2-time Cy Young Award winner, and World Series Champion pitcher. But before his professional baseball career started, as a 2nd round pick in 1984 (Atlanta Braves), the left-handed pitcher was a hockey star for Billerica High School in Massachusetts. Matter of fact, Glavine was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the 4th round ahead of future stars like Brett Hull, Gary Sutter, and Luc Robatille. But the young athlete chose to pursue baseball instead. As part of a promotion, following his retirement from professional baseball, Glavine suited up for the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL. He signed autographs for fans, took to the ice for pregame warmups, and also took the opening faceoff before leaving the ice to proceed with the promotional evening.
The British Columbia native is most known for his time as the hard-hitting slugger for the Minnesota Twins before moving on to the Pittsburgh Pirates and Colorado Rockies. But some may not know that Morneau was also a very successful goaltender. In 1997, he joined the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League, a major junior hockey league that produces 29% of the NHL’s annual draft picks. Morneau played in one exhibition game for Portland (WHL) before informing the management that he wanted to pursue a baseball career. He joined the Minnesota Twins after they selected him in the 3rd round of the 1999 MLB Draft. Morneau won the MVP Award in 2006.
The outfielder played 7 seasons in Major League Baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers, and Cleveland Indians. The San Francisco, California native became interested in hockey first. As a 16 year-old, Morgan was recruited to play for the Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia Hockey League. He did not make the team out of training camp and played the remainder of the season for the North Okanagan Knights of the Kootenay International Hockey League. The next two seasons he played in various junior hockey leagues before making the jump to major juniors playing for Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League. He played in 7 games scoring two goals and 20 penalty minutes. He was released and returned to the BCHL. After he decided to hang up his skates, he returned to his second love, baseball. In 2002, he was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the MLB Draft. He stole 42 bases in 2009. During the 2012 season, Morgan joined an on-ice practice with the San Jose Sharks for a promotional taping.
Riley is the only player to have played professionally in the NHL and MLB. The Canadian began his career in the NHL winning a Stanley Cup with the Seattle Metropolitans in 1917. Riley also played 12 seasons in Major League Baseball from 1921 to 1932 with the St. Louis Browns and Washington Senators.
The slugger hit 383 homeruns while being a 5-time All Star, NL MVP (1997), 7-time Gold Glove Award winner, among many other accolades over a 17-year career in Major League Baseball. Before that, Larry Walker played goaltender and had tryouts with the Regina Pats and Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. Walker was cut before the season started.