Blazers' rookie guard Pat Connaughton caught up with Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun and talked extensively about how he has handled life in the NBA as a potential two-sport athlete and what the future holds for him.
The former Notre Dame star seems to be handling the delicate balance well, considering no one has ever played both basketball and baseball professionally.
Here, Connaughton outlines his hope to continue in both sports and says he expects to pitch in the big leagues one day.
It's always on my mind. The way I look at it, one of my main mantras my whole life has been, until someone forces me, which I don't think will happen, I never want to give up on one of them, because think about all the kids who want to be a pro in one of them, let alone two of them. In today's day and age, where so many kids are taught to specialize so early, I want to show them you don't have to - at a young age, high school age, college age and hopefully a professional age.
In my mind, I will pitch in MLB, and I want to achieve that. That's a dream of mine. I don't know when it will be, but like you said, a lot of pitching is based on how many bullets are in your arm compared to your age. Obviously, there becomes an age when it kind of becomes unfeasible, but look at [former major league pitcher] Jamie Moyer. He married [former Notre Dame men's basketball coach] Digger Phelps' daughter. ... Digger was always around, and I got close with Digger, and Jamie came in and talked to me about it. There are a lot of opportunities in baseball that you can achieve down the line as opposed to this sport, where it requires so much athleticism, you probably have to achieve things [in basketball] sooner than later.
Counaughton, who was drafted as a pitcher in 2014 by the Baltimore Orioles before returning to Notre Dame for his senior year, says basketball can help give him an edge in athleticism over full-time baseball players and even continues to throw when he has the chance.
I didn't do it as much last year when I was trying to achieve this dream. And now that you're here, you put all of you effort into this, but you still have the down time. You have times when guys take naps. A lot of guys, this is physically demanding on their bodies, but I've been doing it my whole life, so to throw is actually a day off for me. I do it whenever. I don't do it when we're on the road, but when we're on the road, I can do sleeper stretch, you can do strengthening with a heavy-weight ball, stuff like that.
I've always said that there's a major correlation in the fact that basketball has always really helped me physically for baseball. I'm in a lot better shape than a lot of baseball guys or a lot of baseball pitchers just because of the nature of the sport. I'm more athletic than a lot of them because of the nature of the sport, and it allows me to pick up on things from a mechanical standpoint. While you're pitching, pitching mechanics [are important], so it allows me to repeat things a lot easier than other players.
Connaughton does appear to be focused on his rookie season with the Blazers and is giving basketball a good hard look while maintaining his dream to be a two-sport professional athlete.
Read all of what Connaughton has to say here.
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