Pat Connaughton remains focused on the NBA, on fighting for a rotation spot in Portland, on growing into a standout player. But his other career — Major League Baseball — always seems to beckon from the background, tugging at him in the form of communication from Dan Duquette, the Baltimore Orioles executive vice president.
The Orioles thought so highly of Connaughton, they allowed him to keep his $428,000 signing bonus and encouraged him to chase his NBA dreams. Baltimore controls his baseball rights through 2020 and they reportedly believe he could ascend to the major leagues rapidly if he committed to baseball.
Connaughton has not thrown off a mound or trained for baseball since his only minor league season — “There’s no reason for me to waste bullets in my arm if I’m not building up to actually playing and facing batters,” he said — but he believes his training with the Blazers, which features extensive strength and core work, enhances his baseball potential.
Conley helped pitch the Milwaukee Braves to a World Series championship in 1957 and won three NBA titles with the Boston Celtics. Otto Graham won championships in the NFL and the NBL, a precursor to the NBA. Conley was a right-hander and three-time All-Star (1954, ’55, ’59) who spent 11 years in baseball with three teams.
Calipari, speaking on the SEC coaches’ summer teleconference, said he’s in favor of the “baseball rule,” referring to Major League Baseball’s rules that allow a player from high school to go to the pros or go to college and then not be eligible to be drafted until after his junior season. “I’m good with the baseball rule. As long as they’re going directly to the NBA, they’re paying them what they deserve to be paid and then it’s on them to look after these kids and give them a gap year if they think they can do that in the NBA,” he said.