Catching up with former Chiefs safety Sanders Commings
By Matt Conner
Former Kansas City Chiefs safety Sanders Commings talks about making the switch to professional baseball.
John Dorsey’s list of fifth round picks turned out about as varied as possible. Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs enjoyed the instant impact of Tyreek Hill. Others like quarterback Aaron Murray are searching for a home. Yet another has switched sports entirely, as Sanders Commings recently made his professional baseball debut in the Atlanta Braves organization.
Commings was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of high school where he was a two-sport star, and the former Chiefs safety says he had hopes of doing the same at the University of Georgia. He grew up idolizing Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, so it makes sense that he’d keep the passion alive for both sports. What he didn’t realize is how hard it would be to make a living at both.
Unfortunately Commings had three surgeries in three years with the Chiefs, forcing him to retire early and shift his focus. Now he’s learning to swing the bat again and hoping his natural talent carries him to the big leagues.
You were a two-sport star in high school and had serious interest in both directions. What made you choose football over baseball in the end?
It kind of just happened that way. I got to Georgia on a full football scholarship, but I was told I’d have an opportunity to do both. Since I was on a 100 percent football scholarship, they had priority and so it just worked out that way.
When you were unable to play baseball, did you miss it?
I did. My first couple seasons at Georgia, it was hard for me to go and watch the baseball games because I missed it so much. I missed the feeling of going out there and competing and hitting the baseball. It was everything, really.
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Did you always have baseball in the back of your mind? I mean, did you have the idea all along that you could potentially pursue it professionally after football was over? Or did the idea to go for it come after you finished your football career?
My goal was to try to pull off a Deion Sanders; that was my original goal to do both professionally at the same time. Unfortunately, nowadays, it’d be really tough to do something like that. After a few injuries in football, I decided it was time for me to give baseball a chance. It’s not as physically demanding on your body as football is. I just decided it was time after my third surgery.
In the NFL, I had three surgeries in three seasons, so after that third one, I’d pretty much made up my mind that it was over. I had one for my collarbone, my ankle and my knee. The last one was my knee and I’d just decided that maybe it was time to start swinging the bat again.
I’m glad you just said that, because I’m curious how hard it was to do just that—to swing the bat again? Had you kept up your skills?
Not really. Since my senior year of high school in 2008 up until 2016, I’d only really swung the bat consistently for a month and that was at Georgia. The only thing other than that I was really swinging was a golf club.
How did it feel to don the gear and step back into it for the very first time?
There’s definitely a learning curve. My swing felt like it was there, but there will be certain moves that I’ll have to correct in my swing, swing path corrections that I have to make. But it’s a game that comes naturally to me so I just have to fine tune certain things in my swing and my game.
You mentioned Deion Sanders earlier. Was he a hero?
He was definitely one of my favorite athletes growing up for sure. I used to love watching him play. I loved Bo Jackson as well, and he was another two-sport guy.
How is the confidence in the early going?
The confidence is there. That’s not a problem. For the first game, I feel like I wanted to get a hit too badly, so my approach in this latest game was just to relax, to see the ball and hit the ball and things got better.
What arethe biggest areas of growth for you now?
My mental approach at the plate and pitch selection is what I need to focus on the most right now.
When you look back on your time with the Chiefs, is there something you appreciate most about that period?
Just the opportunity to play a professional sport. I’m also thankful for the people I met. I met a lot of great people that I would not have met if I hadn’t been able to play football.
It’s not lost on me that you’re with the Atlanta Braves, the same team that Brian Jordan and Deion Sanders played on
Yeah, they definitely have the history of bringing those crossover athletes into the big leagues, so hopefully I can be another one of those guys. I’m taking things one day at a time. I’m just blessed to even have this opportunity. I know that God has blessed me with this ability, so to have a shot to play at the highest level in two different sports is really a blessing. I’m just taking this dream one day at a time.