Bucks’ Connaughton not ruling out return to baseball after NBA career

CHICAGO — By now everyone has heard that Milwaukee Bucks guard Pat Connaugton is a multi-sport athlete in basketball and baseball and was selected in both the NBA (Brooklyn, second round in 2015) and MLB (Baltimore, fourth round in 2014) drafts. He combined those two worlds in his first attempt in the recent 2020 NBA dunk contest, when he jumped over Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich.

“No one ever expected me to be a Division I athlete and when they did, it was in baseball not basketball,” Connaughton said recently at All-Star weekend. “As that continued, if I had a chance in pro sports, everyone thought it was going to be in baseball not basketball. The connection is the competitive chip on the shoulder.”

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Connaughton just turned 27 in January, which by NBA standards is relatively young. In the history of the league, some players don’t even hit their career peak until around the age of 30. Now let’s flip it over to MLB, where numerous players have longevity until their 40s. So, is there still a window for Connaughton to be throwing a Rawlings ball after he’s done dunking a Spalding?

“Look, I’m a guy that I never try to close the door on any opportunity, but mostly I try to look at the things that I do as an inspiration to the kids coming up. How many kids would kill to be in a position to play one sport professionally, let alone two,” Connaughton said. “For me, being able to play basketball and do it at a high level is incredible and to be able to live out my dream and play in the NBA is incredible

“But if there’s ever a possibility when my NBA career is over, I think I’d be remiss not to at least give it a try because of all the kids that love baseball, the kids that would love to be a professional baseball player, and I was one of those kids, too.”

Make no mistake, Connaughton is committed, devoted and prideful of being part of the Milwaukee Bucks and isn’t exactly in his best on-the-mound form while his focus is on helping his team win an NBA championship, but a not-so-popular hobby of his continuously keeps both his arm and mind fairly close to baseball.

“It’s part of who I am. I throw a football, I throw a baseball, I throw some Frisbees. I keep the arm loose, I want to make sure it works,” Connaughton explained. “I try to make sure I do what I do. Some people like to go to the movies, some people like to go on vacation. For me, throwing on a field, long toss, whatever it might be, is as an escape.

“But I haven’t thrown on a mound or faced batters recently. I guess the last time I threw off a mound was first pitch at Brewers stadium last year, and I probably would have hit a few righty batters if we’re being honest.”

In college, Connaughton played basketball and baseball for Notre Dame, which earned him the attention of the NBA and MLB, but it was also there that he learned the industry of sports. After a lengthily and calculated thought process, he ultimately decided to go to the NBA.

Well, for now that is.

“I love both sports very much, obviously. They’re a part of my life, they’ll forever be a part of my life,” Connaughton said. “I tried to take the Notre Dame business approach.

“Notre Dame taught me so much and one of the things was to look at if something happened, if I wasn’t able to succeed in one of the sports, which sport did I have a chance to go back to? And I don’t think I would’ve ever had a chance to go back to basketball based on the nature of the sport, the athleticism needed, the youth, etc. Baseball, especially with being a pitcher, I think my athleticism was only growing by playing basketball. So, if it didn’t work out, I could go back and try to be a great pitcher and who knows, maybe I can after a successful NBA career.”

Bucks fans probably can’t wait to find out – wait being the key word.