While he may have had unfulfilled expectations to be taken first overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (who wound up being the 22nd pick overall) was more than happy to be picked by the San Diego Padres in the 28th round, a section of the draft that has never seen a player actually set foot on a Major League Baseball field. After being taken 837th, Manziel, who was a multisport athlete in high school, briefly explored playing baseball in college before landing the starting QB gig that brought him into living rooms and blogs everywhere.
“[We asked] ‘Do you want us to draft you,’” Padres General Manager Josh Byrnes recalled to MLB.com. “He said, ‘Yeah sure.’ So we did.” Has the ever been a more Manzielian sentence uttered in the history of the MLB? Whatever your thoughts are on the idea of Johnny Football, he does seem to be an existential ‘Why Not?’ to any idea you might hold about, well, anything. Does it matter that, like Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson before him, this is totally a publicity stunt? Not really. If the player’s not expected to suit up for the team, why not draft someone with some nationwide appeal?
“You know, I heard he’s a good player. I think he’s a middle infielder,” said Padres manager Bud Black, hammering home the serious scouting involved in the pick. “You can always use middle infielders.”
Johnny Football posted a picture to his Instagram account last week before he was scheduled to throw out the first pitch for the Cleveland Indians earlier this year. While that particular PR stunt was rained out, it was oddly prescient, since it came days before his arrival on the Padres. An arrival that was greeted with a mixture of reactions from his new, at-least-on-paper teammates. While pitcher Ian Kennedy admitted to ESPN that he didn’t know that Manziel was a ballplayer, closer Houston Street took a much more diplomatic approach.
“I’m a fan. I think he’s an exciting player,” Street told the website. “I think he’s good for sport. I think he plays hard. I don’t know if he’ll ever wear a Padre uniform, but it sure is exciting that the organization took him. I know he hung out here last year a couple times and everybody really enjoyed his presence. Everybody liked him. I came away from that day thinking, ‘Man, that’s a good dude, that’s a cool guy.’”