Baseball season and spring football are fast approaching, and the man of the hour once again on Missouri’s campus is Sam Horn. How’s he going to play both? Can he play both? Will he choose? No one knows.
Right now the plan seems to be that Horn will be available to pitch for Missouri Baseball when he can, but that football will be the priority. Nevertheless, simply the fact that he’s throwing bullpens and gearing up for baseball season while not having any sort of firm hold on the quarterback position on Missouri’s football team is a story.
Can Horn give his best effort towards the quarterback competition with Jake Garcia and Brady Cook if he’s also playing baseball? What if he balls out in spring ball and the plan is for him to start Week 1? Is the risk of him tearing his UCL on the mound and being out of football season worth it?
On the other hand, what if Horn walks onto the Taylor Stadium mound and mows down hitters in the SEC, which many think he’s very capable of. Is he risking a future as a pitcher each time he steps onto Faurot Field?
When situations like this arise, immediately fans turn to the past for answers. They often recall a number of stars who were able to play both at the collegiate level. Bo Jackson, Jeff Samardzija, Deion Sanders, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson and Todd Helton come to mind, but are any of these athletes’ situations actually a fair comparison?
Jackson, Samardzija and Sanders didn’t play quarterback, which requires far more practice and study than a skill position player to be merely satisfactory, let alone be QB1 on an SEC team. Likewise, Murray, Wilson and Helton, while quarterbacks, weren’t pitchers. Each time they threw a baseball there was far less injury risk than when Horn does.
Perhaps the only truly fair comparison to Horn’s situation is Jameis Winston’s. Winston actually played both ways for FSU’s baseball team, but was primarily a closer in the Seminoles’ bullpen. Like Horn, Winston was a premier MLB draft prospect as a pitcher in high school but slid down draft boards due to concerns about his commitment to play football.
Horn and Winston are both hard-throwing RHPs with good breaking balls, and Jameis did play baseball the spring before he first became FSU’s starting QB. The Seminoles won the National Championship that year, so balancing the two clearly is possible, but is it practical?
Winston had a 1.94 ERA in 60.1 innings in his two years on FSU’s baseball team, but left the team once he decided to declare for the NFL Draft. Horn could likely face a similar decision in the future. Maybe it won’t be between continuing his baseball career and being the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. But at some point, he’s going to have to choose which sport is his future.
While I have hardly seen him play either sport, Horn’s projectable fastball and ranking as MLB.com’s No. 76 draft prospect leads me to believe that he might actually be better at baseball despite him primarily being heralded as a football player.
Regardless of which sport Horn is better at or his ability to play both simultaneously, I think it’s clear that what’s best for his future on either field is to pick one sport. If the plan was for him to play shortstop, it might seem reasonable that he could do both, but taking the injuries that come with being a pitcher into account changes the calculus. Risking a major football injury that could impact Horn’s baseball career or an arm injury on the mound that could prevent him from playing football seems downright illogical and irresponsible if one sport truly is more important to him.