MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Minors threat: 7 stars who flirted with baseball

Elway, Jordan among famous athletes who couldn't crack MLB

Minors threat: 7 stars who flirted with baseball

Tim Tebow hasn't backed down. Signed to a Minor League contract by the Mets during the offseason, Tebow was the center of attention during Spring Training. He has faded to the national background in the past month, but he is still pursuing the dream of the big leagues.

It hasn't been easy. Playing for the Mets' Class A affiliate in Columbia, S.C., of the South Atlantic League, Tebow was hitting .232 through Wednesday's games. The 29-year-old former NFL quarterback had two home runs and nine RBIs with 23 strikeouts in 82 at-bats.

There have been athletes from other sports who have turned to baseball and had an impact, including Brian Jordan, Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders of NFL fame and Dave DeBusschere and Ron Reed of the NBA.

Tebow on playing in Minors

There have, however, also been great athletes who couldn't make a mark in Major League Baseball. Here are seven examples of athletes who turned their attention to other endeavors after a flirtation with professional baseball.

John Elway
The current general manager of the Denver Broncos spent 16 years as the Broncos' quarterback, setting an NFL record at quarterback for participation in victories, earned Super Bowl XXXIII MVP honors as well as the NFL MVP Award in 1987.

Drafted out of high school by the Royals, Elway opted instead to attend Stanford University, where, after his junior season, the Yankees made him their second-round selection in the 1981 Draft. He wound up signing and played in 42 games for the Yankees' Class A Short-Season team in Oneonta, N.Y., in '82, hittiing .318 with four home runs, 25 RBIs and 13 stolen bases.

Elway watches the Rockies

After being the No. 1 pick in the 1983 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts, Elway used baseball as his leverage to force a trade that landed him with the Broncos. Gary Hughes, the scout who signed Elway, to this day says he would have been a superstar in baseball as well.

Michael Jordan
A five-time NBA MVP and 14-time All-Star, Jordan played on six NBA championship teams with the Chicago Bulls and was the MVP of each of those championship finals. He announced his retirement from the NBA after the 1993 season and then signed a contract to play in the Minor Leagues with the White Sox, owned by Jerry Reinsdorf, who also owned the Bulls.

Jordan was assigned to Double-A Birmingham, where he hit .202 with 17 doubles, one triple, three home runs and 51 RBIs in 127 games. He struck out 114 times, had an on-base percentage of .289, a slugging percentage of .266 and committed 11 outfield errors, and he returned to the Bulls the next season.

Russell Wilson
The quarterback who piloted the 2014 Seahawks to the first Super Bowl title in franchise history and led them back to the Super Bowl the next year, Wilson is the second-highest-rated NFL passer all-time to Aaron Rodgers.

Russell Wilson's first pitch

Wilson was drafted as a second baseman in the fourth round by the Rockies in 2010, and he played 93 games over two seasons at Class A Short-Season Tri-City (32 games in '10) and Class A Asheville (61 games in '11), hitting .229 with five home runs, 26 RBIs, 19 stolen bases and eight caught stealings. He transferred from North Carolina State to Wisconsin for his final year of college football and decided to pursue pro football.

Randy Poffo
Poffo signed with the Cardinals out of high school and spent four years in the Minor Leagues, playing the bulk of the first three years at the Rookie level. He signed with the Reds in 1974 and played for Class A Tampa, after which he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, Angelo Poffo, and pursue professional wrestling.

Poffo became ranked as one of the best actual wrestlers on the pro circuit as well as one of the most entertaining under the name Randy Savage, with his real-life wife, Miss Elizabeth, as his manager. He won 29 titles during his 32-year wresting career. His young brother, Leaping Lanny Poffo, also was a professional wrestler.

Sammy Baugh
The man who has been proclaimed the innovator of the forward pass was the sixth player taken in the 1937 NFL Draft, going to the Washington Redskins, whom he led to NFL championships in '37 and '42. Baugh was named to six Pro Bowls, but the sport of his youth was baseball. He had a scholarship to play baseball at Washington State, but he injured his knee a month before school started, which led to the scholarship being pulled and Baugh deciding to play football at TCU.

Baugh did, however, play baseball at TCU and gave professional baseball a one-time shot in 1938, when at the age of 24 he played at the Double-A level in the Cardinals' system, hitting .200 in 53 games as a shortstop.

James Casey
Currently an assistant coach with the University of Houston, Casey was a seventh-round Draft choice of the White Sox out of Azle (Texas) High School in 2003, but after three years at the Rookie level, where he was 4-10 with a 5.82 ERA, and one season in independent ball, Casey opted to turn to football and enrolled at Rice University. He was a fifth-round Draft choice of the Texans in '09 and played seven years in the NFL as a tight end.

John Lynch
Currently the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers, Lynch spent 15 years in the NFL as a strong safety. He was also the second player taken by the expansion Marlins in 1992, the first year they were involved in the Draft. A pitcher, Lynch started the first game in the history of the organization for the Class A Short-Season Erie Sailors.

Lynch was committed to baseball and did not plan to return to Stanford for a senior season, but Bill Walsh replaced Dennis Green as Stanford's coach that summer, and he convinced Lynch to return for that senior season after all. Lynch wound up as a third-round Draft choice of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1993 and was selected to the Pro Bowl nine times.

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