Football and baseball are two of the most popular sports in the United States, with the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) being the premier professional leagues for each sport.
Both sports require exceptional skill, athleticism, and dedication from their athletes.
However, when it comes to determining which sport is harder or more difficult to succeed in, there are several factors to consider.
Here we’ll look at the various aspects of football and baseball to determine if one is indeed harder than the other, specifically in terms of making it to the professional level.
The Physical Demands
One of the key factors in determining the difficulty of a sport is the physical demands it places on its athletes.
In football, players are subjected to intense physical contact, high-speed collisions, and the risk of injury on every play.
The sport requires a combination of strength, speed, agility, and endurance.
On the other hand, baseball is a sport that relies more on skill and technique rather than sheer physicality.
While baseball players need to be in good shape and possess certain athletic abilities, such as hand-eye coordination and quick reflexes, the physical demands are generally not as high as in football.
- In football, players need to be able to withstand tackles from opponents weighing over 250 pounds, while also possessing the speed to outrun defenders.
- Baseball players need to have excellent hand-eye coordination to hit a ball traveling at speeds over 90 miles per hour.
The Skill Set
Another aspect to consider when comparing the difficulty of football and baseball is the required skill set for each sport.
Football players need to possess a wide range of skills, including throwing, catching, running, blocking, and tackling.
They also need to have a deep understanding of complex playbooks and strategies.
In contrast, baseball players focus on specific skills such as hitting, fielding, throwing, and base running.
While baseball requires a high level of skill in these areas, the overall skill set needed may be considered less diverse compared to football.
- A quarterback in football needs to have the ability to accurately throw the ball to receivers while under pressure from the opposing team’s defense.
- A baseball pitcher needs to have precise control over their pitches and the ability to deceive batters with different types of pitches.
Competition and Roster Sizes
The level of competition and the number of available roster spots also play a role in determining the difficulty of making it to the professional level in football or baseball.
An NFL team typically has 53 players on its active roster, while an MLB team has 26 players.
This means that there are fewer opportunities for aspiring baseball players to secure a spot on an MLB team compared to football players trying to make it to the NFL.
- There are 32 NFL teams, resulting in a total of 1,696 active roster spots available for players.
- MLB has 30 teams, providing a total of 780 active roster spots.
Financial considerations can also be a factor when comparing the difficulty of making it to the professional level in football or baseball.
NFL players generally earn higher salaries compared to MLB players.
The average salary for an NFL player is around $2 million per year, while the average salary for an MLB player is around $4 million per year.
Deion Sanders – What a Dual Sport (NFL-MLB) Athlete Thought
Here’s an explanation with a relevant quote from Deion Sanders on why he found MLB harder than the NFL due to the difficulty of hitting a baseball:
Deion Sanders was a rare two-sport athlete who played professionally in both the NFL as a cornerback and outfielder in MLB.
He noted that hitting a baseball consistently at the major league level was extremely difficult and much harder than anything he had to do in football.
As Sanders once said:
“In baseball, you fail 70 percent of the time and end up in the Hall of Fame. That’s hard to deal with. You have to have such a strong mindset and you have to deal with failure so much. I couldn’t deal with it.”
He commented on how in football he could make an impact on defense even if he wasn’t perfect on every play.
But in baseball, hitting is binary – either you get a hit or you don’t.
The best hitters still only successfully get a hit around 30% of the time.
Sanders found dealing with the constant failure and pressure to produce far more taxing in MLB than anything he faced in the NFL.
The hand-eye coordination and split-second timing needed to hit a 90+ mph fastball made baseball a much tougher sport in his opinion.
Deion Sanders explains why MLB was harder than the NFL | Ep. 65 | CLUB SHAY SHAY
Who Played in Both the NFL and MLB?
Here is a list of players who have played in both the NFL and had some experience in pro baseball:
- Deion Sanders – NFL cornerback/return specialist, MLB outfielder
- Bo Jackson – NFL running back, MLB outfielder
- Brian Jordan – NFL safety, MLB outfielder
- Drew Henson – NFL quarterback, MLB third baseman
- Chad Hutchinson – NFL quarterback, MLB pitcher
- D.J. Dozier – NFL running back, MLB outfielder
- Brian Dawkins – NFL safety, MLB outfielder (drafted by MLB but did not play)
- Matt Kinzer – NFL punter, MLB outfielder
- Kerry Rhodes – NFL safety, MLB outfielder (drafted but did not play in MLB)
- Russell Wilson – NFL quarterback, MLB second baseman (played minor league baseball)
- Jameis Winston – NFL quarterback, MLB pitcher (drafted but did not play in MLB)
- Tim Tebow – NFL quarterback/tight end, MLB outfielder
- Chris Weinke – NFL quarterback, MLB infielder (played minor league baseball)
- Brandon Weeden – NFL quarterback, MLB pitcher (played minor league baseball)
- Alex Tanney – NFL quarterback, MLB pitcher (played minor league baseball)
- Josh Booty – NFL quarterback, MLB third baseman/shortstop
So in summary, the most accomplished NFL/MLB two-sport stars were Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson, and Brian Jordan who had full careers in both leagues.
A few others were drafted but never played in MLB.
Is There More Skill Set Overlap Between the NFL and MLB than NFL and NBA or MLB and NBA?
The degree of skill set overlap between the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and National Basketball Association (NBA) depends on the specific skills you are considering.
It’s worth noting that while all three sports demand high levels of athleticism, the skill sets required for each are often specialized and unique.
NFL and MLB
There may be some overlap in certain skill sets such as throwing accuracy, hand-eye coordination, strategic understanding of the game, and explosive power.
However, the skills required to excel in football versus baseball are largely distinct.
Baseball is heavily focused on skills such as batting, fielding, and pitching, none of which have direct parallels in football.
Football, on the other hand, demands a variety of position-specific skills, such as blocking for linemen, catching and route-running for receivers, and throwing for quarterbacks that don’t have obvious parallels in baseball.
NFL and NBA
There might be more overlap here than between NFL and MLB.
For example, both football and basketball require agility, the ability to read and react quickly to developing plays, and hand-eye coordination.
Wide receivers in football and basketball players both need to be adept at catching balls and at spatial awareness to avoid opponents.
Nonetheless, many of the skills are sport-specific.
MLB and NBA
There’s less overlap between the skills needed in basketball and baseball.
Both require hand-eye coordination and quick reactions, but the specifics of the games are vastly different.
The running, jumping, and continuous action in basketball contrast heavily with the static and explosive nature of baseball.
Moreover, shooting in basketball doesn’t really have a direct equivalent in baseball.
It’s also important to note that while we are comparing skill sets, the physical attributes needed for each sport can vary widely.
The size and body types that are advantageous in the NFL might not be as beneficial in the MLB or NBA, and vice versa.
Has Anyone Played in Both the NFL and NBA? Has Anyone Played in Both the NBA and MLB?
No athlete has played in both the NFL and NBA or both the NBA and MLB.
The sports require such different skill sets and body types that it’s extremely rare for athletes to excel in more than one at the professional level.
However, there have been athletes who played in both the NFL and MLB.
Perhaps the most famous examples are Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders.
Jackson was a running back in the NFL and an outfielder in MLB, while Sanders played as both a cornerback in the NFL and an outfielder in MLB.
There have also been a handful of players who were drafted by teams from both the NBA and MLB, but none have actually competed in both leagues.
For example, Danny Ainge was drafted into both leagues, but chose to pursue a career in basketball with the Boston Celtics, after initially starting a career with the Toronto Blue Jays in MLB. Ainge later transitioned into a successful career as an NBA executive.
As for NBA and MLB, there is the example of Michael Jordan, who had a storied NBA career, then briefly played minor league baseball, but he never made it to the major leagues in baseball, hitting about .200 in Double-A over one season.
These are rare examples, as each sport demands a high level of specialization, both in terms of physical attributes and skills.
Playing professionally in two sports requires an athlete to be exceptionally gifted and dedicated.
When comparing the difficulty of making it to the professional level in football (NFL) and baseball (MLB), it is clear that both sports present unique challenges.
Football requires a higher level of physicality and a diverse skill set, while baseball relies more on skill and technique.
The competition for roster spots is also more intense in football due to the smaller roster sizes in the NFL.
Additionally, financial considerations may make football a more attractive option for aspiring athletes.
Overall, the difficulty of making it to the professional level in either sport depends on individual factors such as talent, dedication, and opportunity.
FAQs – Is Football (NFL) Harder Than Baseball (MLB)?
1. Is it harder to make it to the NFL or MLB?
Making it to the NFL is generally considered harder than making it to the MLB due to factors such as the physical demands of football, the larger number of available roster spots in MLB, and the higher average salaries in the NFL.
2. What skills are more important in football compared to baseball?
In football, skills such as throwing, catching, running, blocking, and tackling are crucial.
In baseball, skills such as hitting, fielding, throwing, and base running are more emphasized.
3. Are there more opportunities to play professional baseball compared to football?
Yes, there are more opportunities to play professional baseball compared to football.
MLB teams have larger minor league systems, resulting in more available spots for players.
4. Do football players face a higher risk of injury compared to baseball players?
Yes, football players face a higher risk of injury due to the physical nature of the sport.
The risk of high-speed collisions and tackles increases the likelihood of injuries such as concussions, fractures, and sprains.
5. Are there more financial incentives in football or baseball?
Baseball generally offers higher average salaries compared to football.
However, top players in both sports can earn significant amounts of money through contracts, endorsements, and other sources.
6. Which sport requires more athleticism?
Football requires a higher level of athleticism due to the physical demands of the sport.
The combination of strength, speed, agility, and endurance needed in football surpasses the requirements of baseball.
7. Are there any transferable skills between football and baseball?
While there may be some transferable skills between football and baseball, such as hand-eye coordination and overall athleticism, the specific skills required for each sport are quite different.
The techniques and strategies used in football and baseball are unique to each sport.
8. Are there any advantages to pursuing a career in football over baseball?
One advantage of pursuing a career in football is the potential for higher average salaries, as well as the popularity and media exposure that the NFL enjoys.
Additionally, the shorter playing careers in football may allow athletes to transition to other careers at a younger age compared to baseball.
9. Which sport has a more competitive professional environment?
The professional environment in both football and baseball is highly competitive.
However, due to the smaller roster sizes in the NFL, the competition for spots on an NFL team may be considered more intense compared to MLB.
10. Can someone excel in both football and baseball?
While it is rare, there have been athletes who have excelled in both football and baseball.
Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders are notable examples of athletes who played professionally in both sports.