15 years before James Paxton, an eagle almost flew into Derek Jeter's head
Prior to Thursday's Twins home opener, James Paxton showed impressive fortitude when a bald eagle named Challenger tried to land on his shoulder after mistaking the pitcher for his trainer. Though the bird was digging its claws into Paxton and flapping its wings frantically, the Mariners' starter kept surprisingly calm:
15 years ago, a bald eagle -- also named Challenger -- flew toward Derek Jeter prior to Game 1 of the 2003 ALCS. The near-encounter caused the Yankee shortstop to duck for cover:
Since both incidents involved a bald eagle named Challenger, it is possible that the same bird flew toward both Paxton and Jeter. Bald eagles live for 20-30 years in the wild and up to 50 years in captivity. However, we have been unable to confirm this and will update if it proves to be the case.
If anything, this makes Paxton's composure during his encounter with the eagle even more impressive. This same type of unexpected encounter forced one of the more unflappable players in recent memory to hit the deck. For Paxton, it wasn't enough to even induce panic. Jeter went 0-for-4 following his incident with the eagle while Paxton struck out seven batters while giving up only two runs in five innings.
If Jeter was known for being cool under pressure, we're going to need an entirely new description for Paxton.