A.J. Brown and Major League Baseball: True Love or Leverage? – Sports Illustrated

NASHVILLE – He’s been in a committed relationship with football for years now, but A.J. Brown can’t seem to stop batting his eyes at baseball this offseason.
The San Diego Padres organization is winking right back at him.
Get a room, you two?
It’s probably just a harmless offseason flirtation between Brown and the MLB franchise that drafted and signed Brown as a potential center fielder back in 2016. But it’s also worth remembering that the Tennessee Titans wide receiver, who totaled 185 catches in his first three seasons, is eligible to sign a contract extension this offseason. Couldn’t hurt for Brown to offer a gentle reminder to his longtime love – the Titans – that, `Hey, I’ve got other options out there as well,’ right?
That’s just light-hearted speculation, of course, but in this day and age, who knows? It doesn’t seem a stretch to draw some parallels here with the social-media drama surrounding Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, who in recent days unfollowed the Cardinals' Twitter and Instagram accounts and has scrubbed Cardinals-related photos from his personal Instagram account.
Murray, like Brown, is a 2018 NFL draft pick who’s eligible for a contract extension. And Murray, like Brown, also was selected by a Major League Baseball team. The Oakland A’s drafted Murray with the ninth overall pick of the 2018 draft. Did we mention that Murray’s new Twitter pic now features two images – one of him playing football at Oklahoma University, the other of Murray batting in an A’s uniform?
Brown hasn’t gone to those lengths, certainly, but we wouldn’t be writing this article at all if he hadn’t at least given us reason to ponder what he’s thinking.
Matt Bush/USA Today Sports
A little background:
Growing up, baseball was Brown’s first love, the sport he played because his father had such a passion for it. Brown was good at it too. He was selected to participate in the prestigious Under Armour All-America Game the summer before his senior year of high school in Starkville, Miss.
Brown headed to Ole Miss on a football scholarship, but that didn’t stop the Padres from taking a chance on him with a 19th-round selection and signing him to an organizational contract as well. In fact, Brown even participated in some light spring-training work with the Padres for three straight seasons.
But it was about that time – Brown’s junior year in college – that he put baseball fully on the back burner, telling the Padres he wouldn’t be returning for another spring training.
“They were about to re-sign me,” Brown later explained. “But I had just talked to my pops. I just told them I need to focus on football. I didn’t want to scare any football teams away (in the NFL Draft).”
Brown hammered home that theme when he made visits to teams leading up to the NFL Draft, such as this one with the Titans, when he told Tennesseetitans.com: “I’m strictly football. … I pretty much played baseball because my dad was a real big baseball guy, but my love’s in football and my passion is for football.”
George Walker IV / Tennessean.com via Imagn Content Services, LLC
So then, how do we account for Brown’s recent social-media posts suggesting he’d be interested in attempting to be a two-sport standout?
Brown lobbed the first one out on Jan. 26, just a few days after the favored Titans’ season ended with a home playoff loss to Cincinnati. He retweeted a post about two-sport legend Bo Jackson, writing “Sometimes I think about playing both sports again, @Padres, all I need is a workout.”
Brown followed up quickly with another post, promising he would fare better than two-sport pro athlete Michael Jordan did in baseball.
Then came a Twitter post on Monday with this pic from an MLB.com article, featuring Brown in both a Titans and Padres uniform. Then there was another post that same day of Brown taking batting practice at Nashville’s Hillwood High School, with Brown tagging the Padres in both instances.
Given the opportunity to step away from this little game of footsy, the Padres chose to wiggle their toes instead, retweeting Brown’s batting-practice clip and writing “Like what we see, AJ: Spring training is right around the corner.”
That wasn’t the only example of Brown’s recent musings catching the eye of Major League Baseball, as MLB.com jumped to attention upon seeing them. Padres beat reporter A.J. Cassavell wrote an article quoting Padres area scout Stephen Moritz, who said he “put an everyday (player) grade on (Brown) at the big-league level” before signing him in 2016.
“I believe that with the athleticism — and he really loved the game, so he was going to work at it — there was a chance for him to be an everyday center fielder," Moritz told MLB.com.
It’s important to note the article states that Brown – at least as of earlier in the week — had not made any formal contact with the Padres, and that Padres officials were choosing to view the tweets as Brown “simply finding a way to publicly express his love of baseball.”
We should also point out that, as of earlier this week, the Titans had not had any conversations with Brown about potentially playing baseball either.
George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA Today Network
But what if Brown was serious about wanting to give both sports a try, seeking to follow in the footsteps of athletes like Jackson, Deion Sanders, Brian Jordan and others? Would that even be an option when he’s still under contract to the Titans?
This example of a recent NFL Standard Player Contract from 2019 says this regarding activity away from the football field: “Without prior written consent of the Club, Player will not play football or engage in activities related to football otherwise than for Club or engage in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury … Player therefore agrees that Club will have the right, in addition to any other right which Club may possess, to enjoin Player by appropriate proceedings from playing football or engaging in football-related activities other than for Club or from engaging in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury.”
So, it would seem the question at that point would be whether playing professional baseball – in the eyes of the Titans — would entail significant risk of personal injury to Brown or not.
Would the Titans consider adding a little extra to Brown’s new deal to make sure he never, ever raises that question?
Maybe so, and maybe that’s what this very sudden resurgence of two-sport interest is really about.
Then again, maybe we’re just reading waaaay too much into a handful of social-media posts.
So how about giving us a hint, A.J.? Are you just trolling us all these days, enjoying a few laughs during a longer-than-expected offseason?
Or are you really ready to step up to the plate?


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