LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- 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."We feel this is a tremendous athlete and an
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- 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.
"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.
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.
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."
Hairston opined Commings has the athleticism necessary to play center field.
The Braves will evaluate Commings over the next few weeks before determining which position he might play and what level he might be assigned to once he is deemed ready to begin playing games. There is a chance he'll stay at the club's Spring Training complex after the regular season begins to better reacquaint himself with the game.
"I told Sanders, 'We want to get the best organization for you that will help you develop and get as many at-bats as possible,'" Hairston said. "He's still young, and he's got the tools."
While fashioning his Hall of Fame career with the Royals and Braves, Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz benefited from the multi-sport athleticism Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan displayed at the Major League level after beginning their respective NFL careers.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.