Christian Hackenberg couldn’t find success in professional football. In fact, the quarterback never even made it into an NFL game. But Hackenberg is looking at that as the beginning of his story. That’s because he’s taking a page from Tim Tebow’s life manual and trying a career in baseball.
The former first-rounder told NBC 10 in Philadelphia that he’s started to train as a pitcher, with the goal of turning that into his main pursuit.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot left in the tank,” Hackenberg, 25, told NBC 10. “And if one door closes and I have the opportunity to open another one, why not do it?”
Tebow famously got into professional baseball after washing out of the NFL. He was signed by the New York Mets in 2016 after a period of training and an organized workout, having not played baseball since he was in high school.
Hackenberg, who was last seen in 2019 playing in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football, also hasn’t played baseball since he was in high school. According to MaxPreps, Hackenberg was a decent hitter, batting .378/.459/.716 over 47 games in three years on the varsity squad. However, Hackenberg is trying to become a pitcher, and those high school stats are much bleaker. He made 16 appearances with two starts and pitched to a 7.36 ERA. He struck out 33 batters, but walked 40.
Since it’s been seven years since Hackenberg was in high school, he has a lot of work to do. He’s been training with Rutgers-Camden baseball coach Rob Kulik, a former minor league pitcher who owns a backyard pitching facility in Vineland, New Jersey. Kulik is encouraged by what he’s seen.
“He’s been up to 92, but I’d say right now he’s consistently [throwing] 90,” Kulik told NBC 10 in Philly. “But he just started throwing. It’s going to take him some time, but I think he can get to 95-plus in no time.”
Tebow was well known when he was signed, but Hackenberg will be trying to make it in baseball on talent alone, with no extra boost from any previous fame. In fact, his main claim to fame is that he’s the first quarterback in 39 years to be taken in the first or second round of the NFL draft and fail to make it into a single NFL game. His new baseball career doesn’t seem to be an effort to correct that. It mostly seems to be a way to give Hackenberg some of the things he’s been missing: competing and being on a team.
“I got the arm, I have the arm talent, can I get to the point where I have some good command and good control?” he told NBC 10. “And can I get to the point where I’m out competing at a high level where I think I belong? … Mentally, what I miss the most, I think.”
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