After getting tossed from the NFL, failed quarterback Christian Hackenberg is making a pitch to become a professional baseball player. Hackenberg has been working with a pitching coach in hope of getting signed by a MLB team.
The former Penn State signal-caller was taken by the New York Jets with the 51st pick in the second round in 2016. Hackenberg, however, never took a snap with the Jets and, when they drafted USC quarterback Sam Darnold in the first round, he was shipped to the Las Vegas Raiders before the 2018 season. He didn’t make it through training camp before he was cut. Attempts to latch on with the Philadelphia and Cincinnati also failed.
Last year, he started for the Memphis Express in the Alliance of American Football League, but lost his job shortly before the organization folded because of financial difficulties.
Now, Hackenberg has his sights set on joining a MLB team. He told a Philadelphia television station that he believes he can make it to the big leagues as a right-handed pitcher.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot left in the tank,” the 25-year-old Hackenberg said. “And if one door closes, and I have the opportunity to open another one. Why not do it?”
Can Hackenberg Make it in Baseball?
Hackenberg has been working with Rutgers-Camden college baseball coach Rob Kulik, a former minor league pitcher. Kulik told the New York Post that Hackenberg has impressed him.
“Do I think he could pitch in the big leagues one day? I really do,” Kulik said. “Because he is just scratching the surface with what we’re doing now, and I’m already seeing results and improvement.”
A glimpse inside the cage with @chackenberg1 and his attempt to to create a career in baseball. He’s just getting started but he’s got a real live arm. @RKulik28 @RichCimini @JClarkNBCS @DPommellsNBCS @NBCPhiladelphia pic.twitter.com/7NGnx3YyGX
— rob kuestner (@rkuestnernbc10) June 14, 2020
Kulik says Hackenberg is consistently throwing in the 90s, topping out at 92 mph.
“If he continues to do this for another year, there’s no reason he can’t be 95-plus,” Kullik said. “He wants it.”
Hackenberg failed to impress as a high school relief pitcher. In 25 2/3 innings, he struck out 33 batters, had 40 walks, and a 7.36 ERA. Those unimpressive stats haven’t shaken his confidence, though.
“I got the arm, I have the arm talent. Can I get to the point where I have some good command and good control?” Hackenberg said. “And can I get to the point where I’m out competing at a high level where I think I belong? Mentally is what I miss the most, I think.”
Following Tebow’s Footsteps
Hackenberg is the second failed New York Jets quarterback to switch sports. Former 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow has been trying to make it to the show with the New York Mets, toiling as a left fielder and designated hitter in their minor league system for the past two years.
Tebow, who played for Denver, New England, and Philadelphia, announced in 2016 he was going to pursue a baseball career. The New York Mets signed him to a minor-league contract.
He’s steadily moved up the minor-league baseball ladder, and in 2018, was named as a player in the Eastern League All-Star Game. His season ended early when he broke a bone in his right hand and underwent surgery. Another injury ended his 2019 season after he was promoted from Double-A to Triple-A.