LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The highlights of Sanders Commings’ NFL career reads like what happens when you throw a copy of Gray’s Anatomy into the pits of hell.
First training camp: fractured collarbone. (Returns to play two games, then gets hurt again.)
Second training camp: broken ankle. (Misses entire season.)
Third training camp: torn knee meniscus. (Released.)
At which point, Commings took it as a hint — or three hints — that he was not meant to play football for a living.
“I felt like the Lord was talking to me,” the former Georgia defensive back said Friday.
Commings, who played four seasons at Georgia but was limited to two NFL games in two years after he was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs, was back on a field Friday. But it was a baseball field. The Braves signed him for $100,000 to a minor league deal. Commings has returned to a sport he last played as a senior in high school nine years ago in Augusta.
It’s easy to question whether Tim Tebow is genuine in his desire to make it in baseball or he’s merely interested in growing his brand and his bank account. (Tebow is selling autographed baseballs for $125 and autographed bats for $175.) But there’s no doubting Commings’ desire in the sport.
He was a standout high school baseball player in Augusta — good enough to get drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 37th round before he went to Georgia in 2008. As a senior, he batted .520 with 15 homers, 40 RBIs and 18 stolen bases. But needed to take time to let his body heal after the Chiefs released him before the 2015 season.
After finishing a workout with other Braves minor-leaguers on the back fields at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, Commings said, “(Baseball) never left my mind since high school. I really loved baseball and wanted to give it another shot. After being hurt three years in a row in football, it was easy to make a decision. I felt like it was a sign.”
Commings moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, to rehabilitate from injuries. Then one day he scratched an itch and started going to a batting cage.
“I felt like the skill could still be there,” he said.
He enlisted the help of former major-leaguer Jerry Hairston Jr., who he met in a pickup basketball game. Hairston worked with him for two and a half months. Soon, some teams, including the Braves, were invited to watch Commings hit and work out. Commings said he had “two or three” teams interested in signing , but he chose the Braves.
“The opportunity to come back and play for the team I grew up cheering for was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down,” he said.
When asked how his once battered body feels, Commings said, “I feel like I’m 18 again. Remember I didn’t play that much because my injuries came so early in the year.”
He’s facing some steep odds. He’ll turn 27 years old in two weeks, far older than most in minor-league camp. He hasn’t faced professional pitching in a game. But if he didn’t try this, he’ll always wonder.
“I won’t say it’s like riding a bike, but this is something I worked hard at for a solid two and a half to three months, and it started to come back to me,” he said.
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