Kyler Murray, a two-sport star from the University of Oklahoma and 2018 Heisman Trophy winner, has declared himself eligible for the National Football League Draft. It’s potentially a huge blow for Major League Baseball, from a publicity and talent standpoint, and worse for the Oakland Athletics, who had selected Murray with the ninth-overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft.
Murray, who played quarterback for Oklahoma during the 2018 season, leading the Sooners to a college football playoff berth, was rumored to try and play at the top level of both sports simultaneously. But the 21-year-old and his team of advisers asserted that playing quarterback in the NFL is far too difficult to be an MLB starter at the same time, due to the endless hours of preparation and mental game-planning necessary to be an effective play-caller for the NFL team that drafts him.
Murray hit .296 with 10 home runs, 47 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, and a .954 OPS as the starting centerfielder for Oklahoma’s baseball squad last season, displaying his all-around prowess on the baseball diamond as well as the gridiron. If Murray eventually suits up for a pro baseball team, he will be an instant star and a mighty draw for local fans, but it looks like the 5’9″ quarterback will be taking his talents to the NFL.
Which is fine; follow your passion and live your dreams, Kyler. But baseball is now missing out on a potentially transcendent star, whether Murray would have been a two-sport force (a la Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders) or not.With Kyler Murray electing to play football over baseball (or both), @MLB is missing out on a two-sport star. But it turns out they already have one in @IamTrevorMay.Click To Tweet
But that’s okay, because MLB already has a two-sport icon with mainstream success to market around: Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Trevor May. May is a solid-to-good reliever for a team with a borderline decent bullpen, and also, catch this, a member of Luminosity Gaming‘s Fortnite: Battle Royale pro roster.
May went 4-1 with a 3.20 ERA, three saves, a 138 ERA+, and 36 strikeouts in 25.1 innings in 2018. He also has over 900 wins in Fortnite: Battle Royale, an astonishing number for someone with other athletic commitments.
The traditional sports community has made the legitimacy of professional video gaming, or eSports, a hot button discussion, and it’s easy to see both sides of the argument. Side A, the traditionalists: sitting in a chair and pressing buttons on a keyboard or a controller is not an athletic endeavor. Side B, the ever-growing eSports clique: video games are an activity with extreme mental exertion, competition, and entertainment, like all the other sports.
And the rapid growth and established popularity of Fortnite, among other online multiplayer games, give Side B the advantage. Celebrities and athletes have taken to playing Fortnite and streaming their every action online, from music stars like Drake and Jordan Fisher to award-winning baseball players like 2015 American League Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa and 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell.
Trevor May is the most high-profile of any MLB player with Fortnite ties, and the only one affiliated with a major pro gaming team. Luminosity Gaming also features the most universally recognizable gamer, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins (who appeared on the cover of ESPN: The Magazine) as well as wildly popular Twitch streamers Ali “SypherPK” Hassan and Caeser “CDNThe3rd” Noriega. May frequently plays the cooperative duos and squads modes with Ninja, whose Twitch live streams average roughly 45,000 viewers for every session.
Now to backtrack, the reason why MLB and its fans want Murray, either as a baseball-exclusive player or a two-sport star, is for marketability reasons, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. The same way Shohei Ohtani has captivated audiences by doing historically crazy stuff for the Los Angeles Angels, and before him, two-sport staples Jackson and Sanders entertaining millions, Murray would be capable of doing at any level of professional baseball.
A sizable portion of young baseball fans need an outside factor to drive them into having an interest in the game. For kids in the 1980s, Bo Jackson was that; a dominant NFL player somehow succeeding, and starring, in MLB at the same time. Even more recently, Tim Tebow has sparked an interest in baseball while donning a St. Lucie Mets (Double-A) jersey just because of his prior success outside of the sport of baseball.
But if MLB isn’t going to get that marketability out of Murray (which is likely because of his NFL desires), then the organization should use Trevor May that way, even if they don’t consider Fortnite — or any gaming activity — to be a real sport. May has achieved mainstream opulence with Fortnite and should be marketed by the Twins and by baseball as someone with a wider appeal than just a regular relief pitcher.
Especially with the youth of society today, Fortnite is a big deal and gamers like Trevor May are heralded as legends of the multiplayer contest. Though May is nothing more than a decent reliever for an okay MLB team, he has the versatile appeal to bring in fans from the outside of the baseball community into the ballpark, like Kyler Murray.