MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Connaughton's basketball link hardly madness

O's prospect doubles as Notre Dame guard/forward; in past, 12 mastered both sports

Connaughton's basketball link hardly madness

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Orioles have a special interest in March Madness.

Right-hander Patrick Connaughton, ranked the organization's ninth-best prospect by MLB.com, is the leading rebounder and second-leading scorer for No. 11-ranked Notre Dame. He scored 20 points as the Irish advanced to the NCAA Tournament with a 90-82 victory over North Carolina in the ACC Tournament title game on Saturday night.

Connaughton has a chance to become the 13th athlete in history to play professional basketball and Major League Baseball.

Connaughton was considered a late first-round/early second-round Draft possibility out of St. John's Prep in Danvers, Mass., where he also was a quarterback.

Ignored by Division I basketball teams his junior year in high school, he became a prime prospect after scoring 33 points and getting 20 rebounds in a game at the AAU Nationals in Orlando, Fla., following his junior season.

Having selected Notre Dame over dual-sport offers from Boston College, Vanderbilt, UCLA and Miami, Connaughton slipped in the First-Year Player Draft to the Padres in the 38th round.

The Orioles selected him the fourth round last June, signed him for a bonus of $428,100, and sent him to short-season Class A Aberdeen, where he appeared in six games. He made four starts and was 0-1 with a 2.51 ERA for the Iron Birds before returning to Notre Dame.

Connaughton went into Saturday night averaging 12.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for Notre Dame this season, leading the team in shooting from three-point range and with 28 blocked shots.

The 6-foot-5 guard/forward's adviser is Sam Samardzija -- the father of White Sox right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who was a football/baseball player at Notre Dame.

Diamond dozen

The 12 players who played in the Major Leagues and professional basketball:

• Danny Ainge was a second baseman with the Blue Jays from 1979-81 while finishing his college basketball career at BYU. He played in the NBA from 1981-95 with the Celtics, Trailblazers, Suns and Kings.

• Frank Baumholtz was an outfielder with the Reds, Cubs and Phillies (1947-57) who finished fifth in National League Rookie of the Year Award voting in 1947. He played for the Youngstown Bears in the NBL in 1945-46, and the Cleveland Rebels in the BAA, which became the NBA, in 1946-47.

• Gene Conley and Otto Graham are the only athletes to win world championships in two of the four major sports in North America. Conley pitched 11 years (1952-63) with the Braves, Phillies and Boston, and was in the NBA from 1957-61. A three-time All-Star in baseball, he was a member of the 1957 World Series champion Braves, and he won three NBA championship teams with the Celtics. Graham was a member of the NBL champion Rochester Royals in 1946, and that same year quarterbacked the Cleveland Browns to the first of four AAFC championships. He also played on three NFL title teams with the Browns.

• Chuck Connors is best known as an actor, including a five-year run as Lucas McCain, the Rifleman. He, however, played for the Dodgers (one game, 1949) and Cubs (66 games, 1951) and pro basketball with the Celtics (1946-48).

• Dave DeBusschere pitched from 1962-63 with the White Sox, and he played in the NBA from 1962-74 with the Pistons and Knicks. The eight-time NBA All-Star also coached the Pistons from 1964-67.

• Dick Groat played shortstop with the Pirates, Cardinals, Phillies and Giants, earning eight All-Star selections and the 1960 NL MVP Award. He played for the Fort Wayne Pistons (1952-53) after playing at Duke, where he was the college basketball Player of the Year in 1952 and a two-time basketball All-American.

• Steve Hamilton played 12 years in the big leagues with the Indians, Senators, Yankees, White Sox, Giants and Cubs. He also played for the Lakers (1958-60) in the NBA.

• Mark Hendrickson pitched from 2002-11 with the Blue Jays, Rays, Dodgers, Marlins and Orioles, and played from 1996-2000 with the NBA 76ers.

• Cotton Nash was a first baseman/left fielder with the White Sox and Twins in 1967-69. He played in the NBA with the Lakers and Warriors, as well as in the ABA with Kentucky Colonels, from 1964-68.

• Ron Reed, also a product of Notre Dame, pitched from 1966-84 with the Braves, Cardinals, Phillies and White Sox. He is one of five pitchers with 100 wins, 100 saves and 50 complete games. The other four are Ellis Kinder, Firpo Marberry, Dennis Eckersley and John Smoltz. He played with the NBA's Pistons (1965-67).

• Dick Ricketts pitched with the Cardinals in 1959, going 1-6 with a 5.82 ERA in 12 games, after he played in the NBA with the Hawks and Royals (1955-58).

• Howie Schultz was a first baseman with the Dodgers from 1943-47. He was traded to the Phillies in '47 to make room for Jackie Robinson. He finished his MLB career in 1948 with the Reds and joined the NBA, where he played with the Anderson Packers, Pistons and Lakers from 1949-53.

Olympic effort

Jim Thorpe, who won the Pentathlon and Decathlon at the 1912 Olympics, played in the NFL with the Canton Bulldogs and Chicago Cardinals (1915-18), and pro baseball with the New York Giants (1913-15). While he didn't play in the NBA, he was a member of the World Famous Indians basketball team in the late 1920s, which did not become known until the late 1960s.

Thorpe had the 10th-inning single that lifted the Reds to a 1-0 victory against the Cubs in what is called the "double no-hit game." Fred Toney of the Reds did finish with a no-hitter, but Hippo Vaughn of the Cubs lost his no-hitter and the game when he gave up two hits in the 10th.

Quickly

• Scott Burrell is the only player drafted in the first round in baseball (1989, Blue Jays) and NBA (1993, Hornets).

• Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson played with the Harlem Globetrotters (1957-58).

• Five-time NBA MVP Michael Jordan did give baseball a shot in 1994, but after a season with Double-A Birmingham, he gave up the game.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.