The Portland Trail Blazers were not the first team in professional sports to draft Pat Connaughton. Before Portland (via the Brooklyn Nets) took the Notre Dame shooting guard with the 41st pick in the 2015 NBA draft, the Baltimore Orioles took the Notre Dame pitcher in the fourth round of the 2014 MLB draft.
On Monday, Connaughton appeared on MLB Network Radio and said that he was “not going to unrealistically chase a dream if it appears that dream is getting farther and farther away.” According to Jon Meoli of The Baltimore Sun, the Orioles would be happy to welcome their pitching prospect. Baltimore executive vice president Dan Duquette said of Connaughton:
The Orioles believe he has a good future in baseball. He’s a terrific athlete, has a world of talent. A good competitor. So whenever he wants to apply his skills full time, I think he can come quick — to the major leagues — because he’s such a gifted athlete.
Duquette went on to cite the success Jeff Samardzija—another dual sport Notre Dame athlete who chose baseball. Samardzija, who pitched and played wide receiver for Notre Dame has had career earnings of over $61 million playing baseball. Samardzija’s brother, Sam, is an agent who happens to represent Connaughton.
The list of NBA players who also played in the MLB is very short. The most recent example is former Trail Blazer Danny Ainge who played 211 games for the Toronto Blue Jays before being drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1981.
The 24-year-old Connaughton will be entering the final year of his three-year rookie contract with Portland this coming season. He played in only 39 games for the Blazers this past year, averaging 2.5 points in 8.1 minutes per game while shooting 17-33 from three.
Last May, Connaughton joined the Orioles extended spring training. During his rookie season, he spoke with the Blazers of wanting to pitch in the MLB at some point “down the line.” It’s not clear if his limited playing time will spur him to decide to switch sports sooner rather than later. In January he told Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun that “There could be a crossroads or there could not be,” this summer. The Orioles let Connaughton keep his $428,000 signing bonus when they drafted him in hopes that he would decide to switch sports.