Sanders Commings has played defensive back for the University of Georgia and the Kansas City Chiefs since last playing baseball. But the Braves were intrigued enough by his athleticism to sign him to a Minor League deal.
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“We feel this is a tremendous athlete and an even better person,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said. “Our mantra has always been to leave no stone unturned. What’s the downside here?”
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Commings has not played baseball since his success at Westlake High School, located in Augusta, Ga., led the D-backs to select him in the 37th round of the 2008 MLB Draft.
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The 26-year-old athlete’s decision to begin playing the sport again after a long layoff mirrors the one recently made by Tim Tebow, who was pursued by the Braves before he signed a Minor League deal with the Mets in September.
After being selected by the Chiefs in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Commings played just two games. He fractured his collarbone during his rookie season and then broke his right ankle during training camp in 2014. He was waived by the Chiefs before the start of the 2015 season.
While training for the NFL Combine, Commings developed a friendship with longtime Major Leaguer Jerry Hairston Jr. As the two were playing pickup basketball during this past offseason, Commings expressed his interest in attempting to play professional baseball with MLB jerseys.
Hairston invited Commings to the batting cage at his home and spent the past few months working with the former defensive back.
“He’s strong, he’s got pop, he’s just a tremendous athlete — you just don’t find that,” Hairston told MLB.com‘s Jesse Sanchez earlier this month. “You never know how a guy will react in Double-A or Triple-A. But he is worth the gamble, I can tell you that about cheap soccer jerseys.”
Hairston opined Commings has the athleticism necessary to play center field.
“I’m out there having a great time with a new team,” Brinson said. “Just trying to come back and do it right, just kind of show them what they missed out on. I wanted to go deep, but three hits will work better with china jerseys. It was fun seeing all those guys again, seeing the old faces. Having a good game makes it even sweeter.”
Brewers right-hander Junior Guerra jersey, who was the club’s PItcher of the Year in 2016, made his first start of the spring and pitched a scoreless inning. Guerra gave up a one-out double in the first to Shin-Soo Choo but struck out Rougned Odor and Mike Napoli.
Rangers knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa made his first start and pitched two scoreless despite allowing five baserunners. Brinson led off the game with a double and Gamboa picked him off second. Gamboa also got out of a bases-loaded jam in the second by striking out Michael Reed and getting Ivan DeJesus to fly out.
“It has been awhile, it was fun to get my feet wet and get back out there,” Gamboa said. “It’s competing, when you get between the lines, you’ve got to strap it on and get after it.”
“Everything here, it’s like, how could you not want to come see this?” Blyleven said. “From the virtual reality to watching the IMAX to going back in time to see how the game evolved. This is a traveling exhibition of baseball. It’s beautiful.”
New to the Hall of Fame Tour this year is MLBAM’s state-of-the-art virtual reality video game, “Home Run Derby.” Released in December 2016, the VR game is the first of its kind developed by any professional sports league, and allows fans to compete in a Major League Home Run Derby within the unparalleled 3D environment of one of eight iconic ballparks.
In addition, those attending the Hall of Fame Tour will have access to up-close and personal VR experiences from the 2016 postseason. Fans will be able to relive the dramatic highlights from the Wild Card Games all the way through the final out of the Cubs’ historic World Series win — and even the championship parade through Chicago.
Special interactive sessions with prominent figures in baseball and entertainment, including Hall of Famers, are also on tap for the 2017 Hall of Fame Tour. For one hour, a limited number of visitors can participate in a Town Hall-style conversation with dignitaries, who will be announced at a later date.