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Braves with Envy
Last year, when he was playing part time for the New York Yankees, Sanders hit a home run and scored a touchdown in the same week. "I'd love to just have the opportunity to have the ability Deion has," says Braves infielder Jeff Blauser, in a typical Atlanta baseball player's response to Sanders's two-sport shuttle.
"He's incredible," says Braves pitcher Mark Grant. "I'm kind of proud to be on the same team as a guy who is making history like this. I don't know how he's doing it. In football there are so many plays and assignments. Then he comes and plays baseball the same day. We love having him. I admit I prejudged him at the beginning. I saw him on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED [Nov. 13, 1989] and thought, Who is this idiot? But you get to know him, and you realize he has a heart of gold, he's fun and he plays hard."
Braves catcher Greg Olson said Sanders has motivated the Braves with the enthusiasm he has brought to the team. "I think the Falcons are in a no-win position," he says. "They can't tell him to forget the pads, because they'd lose a lot of fan support. Deion is in a win-win situation. Everyone loves him in our locker room, and the fans love him. He gets a standing ovation every time he stands on the field. I'm surprised he didn't fly that helicopter in here himself and land it on the field."
In 1987, at the Metro Conference spring championships in Columbia, S.C., Sanders was scheduled to play rightfield for Florida State in a 3 p.m. baseball tournament game, run the third leg of the 4 x 100 relay at 7:15 for the Seminoles' track team and then play rightfield in another baseball game at 7:30.
The Seminoles won the afternoon game, which ended at 5:24. "We're all celebrating, and there's Deion in the dugout with the track coach, changing clothes and putting on track spikes," recalls Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin. Sanders ran the third leg of the relay, Sammie Smith, now a running back with the Miami Dolphins, ran the anchor and the Seminoles finished second, good enough to give them the conference track title. Sanders jogged back to the baseball stadium for the night game. His two-run single gave him the game-winning RBI as Florida State beat Cincinnati 6-3 to win the conference baseball championship.
The standard NFL player contract prohibits players from "any activity other than football which may involve significant risk of personal injury" during the season. But a rider to Deion's contract with the Falcons says that the Falcons "will not prohibit [ Sanders] from playing professional baseball."...A deal struck last week by the Braves and Sanders's agent, Eugene Parker, calls for Sanders to receive a $5,000 bonus for returning to the Braves, in addition to pro rata salary payments for nine games, the number he would be with the team, that will earn him approximately $12,000.... Should Sanders suffer an injury while playing for the Braves that causes him to miss time with the Falcons, the NFL team would not be liable for Sanders's football salary for the period he's sidelined. Sanders took out an insurance policy for the duration of his stay with the Braves to recompense him for any football income lost because of injury....
The Falcons had only three days of workouts scheduled during their bye week: a film session and light workout on Monday and full-scale practices, with meetings and film sessions, on Wednesday and Thursday. Sanders attended Monday's session before flying to Cincinnati to rejoin the Braves; planned to miss Wednesday's practice, meetings and film session; and was expected to fly back to Atlanta with the Braves after Wednesday night's game in time to take part in Thursday's drills. Falcon owner Rankin Smith Sr. already has decided Sanders will not be fined for missing the Wednesday practice.... Braves president Stan Kasten, who is also president of the Atlanta Hawks, called the NBA office last week about a matter concerning his team's No. 1 draft pick, Stacey Augmon. "The NBA guy didn't even say hello, he just said, 'No, we will not let you sign Deion to an NBA contract. No. No. No,' " said Kasten, laughing....