Kyle Farnsworth certainly understands the curiosity as to why he’s spent the last several months playing semi-pro football in Orlando, but for the longtime major-league pitcher, the answer to the question on everyone’s mind isn’t especially complicated.
“I don’t want to look back and wish I would have done something,” Farnsworth told FOX Sports in a phone interview Thursday. “That’s really the main reason. I don’t want to have regrets in life, and I want to know I did everything I could possibly want to do and did the best I could at it. I didn’t want to be thinking back five, six years from now and wonder what could have happened. It’s kind of just the way I live my life.”
Farnsworth last pitched in 2014 for the Houston Astros, his ninth major-league team in 16 seasons, and joined the Orlando Phantoms of the Florida Football Alliance after an open tryout last summer. Farnsworth didn’t have to look hard to find the team — he says he basically just did a Google search for semi-pro football in the area — and although he hadn’t played since his freshman year of high school, he wasn’t worried about fitting in on the field.
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“Even playing as a little kid, I always loved football, so I figured I should go out there and see what happens,” Farnsworth said of his audition. “It was kind of like back in high school when you’ve got to try out for the baseball team and stuff like that. You just have to go enjoy yourself. It was a lot of people, 100-some-odd people, and I had a good time.”
The Phantoms’ season began in late January and is still ongoing after 11 games, with a playoff game scheduled for Saturday. And it’s a good thing, too, because, despite Farnsworth’s fame among baseball fans, it took almost the entire year for his teammates to figure out the true identity of No. 90 at defensive end.
I don’t want to have regrets in life, and I want to know I did everything I could possibly want to do and did the best I could at it.
“That’s the way I really wanted it,” Farnsworth said. “I didn’t want any of the other players think that was the reason I was on the team, because of my past. Our goal was to go out there and win games, so that’s where I wanted the focus to be. I just wanted to be accepted by the team, by everybody, for what I did on the football field as opposed to what I did on the baseball field.”
“They’ve seen the videos and stuff and they’re like, ‘I didn’t know you were that mean,’” Farnsworth said with a laugh. “It was kind of the same way with baseball. I never really said that much in baseball. I was always quiet, listening. It’s just my personality. Everybody thinks I’m just a big ol’ giant teddy bear, and they never really expected that. But they’re good about it, and they’re all great guys.”
And just like Farnsworth has become quite adept at dishing out punishment — he leads the Phantoms with 11 sacks — he’s been on the receiving end of his fair share of pain as well.
“I’ve been knocked around quite a few times, but that’s part of it,” Farnsworth said. “It’s a contact sport. That’s how it goes. Once I was on punt coverage team and going down to cover the punt and got smacked pretty good. You’ve got to keep your head on a swivel and make sure you remember that.
It’s definitely humbling.
“It’s definitely humbling,” he added. “These guys have been playing the sport a lot longer than I have, and they don’t think that because of who I am, I can go out there and do things better than them.”
Even with the bumps and bruises, however, Farnsworth says the experience of playing has been everything he hoped it would.
“I wouldn’t say there was a void, but it’s definitely been very enjoyable and a lot of fun,” Farnsworth said. “It’s just my personality, in a way. I like the competition. Every practice and every game I get more and more used to it, and I know I still have tons more to learn. So I’m always listening to other guys, trying to learn from them, because I really have no clue.”
With so much room to improve, Farnsworth says he plans to be back with the Phantoms again next season, if they’ll have him. Ultimately, though, the 39-year-old’s goal is to return to the mound. And if he can hang in there with guys half his age on the football field, who’s to say he can’t?
“I don’t think I’m done there,” Farnsworth said of his baseball career. “Even though I’m playing (football) right now, I still throw every day, still throw bullpens. I’m just a competitive person and try to push my body to do the things I want to do, athletically.
“My agent and I are still waiting,” Farnsworth added when asked if he’s had any interest. “He’s sending out emails, talking to guys. The only thing I can do is stay in shape and be ready if they call.”