By Joe McDonald at 2 July, 2013, 12:41 pm
One of the NFL's top quarterbacks might have followed a boyhood idol into a baseball career were it not for (at least) one issue: He was afraid of getting hit with pitches.
That's the story Cam Newton told ESPN in its " My path to the pros " series, a first-person account of his amateur beginnings. Newton, 24, said he idolized Seattle Mariners superstar Ken Griffey Jr., was a fan of New York Yankees icon Derek Jeter and watched a lot of Chipper Jones and the Atlanta Braves when he started playing baseball around age 9.
In organized youth baseball, Newton — a better athlete than most in his group — played center field, shortstop and some third base. Newton was bigger than many of the other kids and, at some tournaments, other coaches would demand to see his birth certificate. Hey, just like some major leaguers! It's worth noting that he doesn't mention being asked to pitch. A future NFL quarterback? Huh.
Most of Newton's baseball fun, he said, came when only the kids were playing and no adults were around:
Those pickup, backyard games were the most fun -- just those warms nights in the South where you smell the fresh-cut grass and walk home exhausted. Those nights were the best.
But they didn't last.