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August 27, 2008
by Jeff Briggs
Ever since he smashed the world records in both the 100m and 200m, removing all doubt as to just who is “The Fastest Man on Earth,” Usain Bolt has been at the center of wild speculation: could he play in the NFL? Bolt’s success, as well as that of other Jamaican sprinters (see: Asafa Powell), has people raving about their potential as a professional wide receiver. In fact, Texas Tech's head coach, Mike Leach, he of the offense that seems to score two touchdowns before they even take the field, has plans to begin looking for recruits in the small island country.
"I got to be honest, I've been thinking about recruiting Jamaica since I saw that stuff," Leach told hosts Andrew Siciliano and Krystal Fernandez. "I've been to Jamaica and let me tell you something ... here's the extent that I've thought about that subject, there's approximately 2.8 million people in Jamaica, which is approximately the size of the state of Iowa or Kansas, or the city of Houston.
"It's almost like the country of Jamaica is sitting there saying, 'If you would have just told us that this was important we could have won a lot of this stuff a long time ago.'"
If it could theoretically work at the college level, why not in the pros
? "Lightning" Bolt has blazing speed (witnesses: 6,602,224,174 people on Earth who are slower than him), and some size, a great combo for an NFL wide out. Bolt could make for a solid WR, but there is another sport that might be an even better fit for the lanky sprinter, one that would require a niche skill, but could be even more suited for his talents (sadly, it's not bobsled
No, instead, the sport in which Usain Bolt could be of immediate use, without much training, is baseball, as a pinch runner.
I know the idea of devoting an entire roster spot to a pinch runner is not generally accepted as "smart," but stop and think about it. Couldn't he sprint 90-feet much faster than either Jose Reyes or Willy Taveras? Put him at first, and he'll get to third - possibly on an infield single.
Believe it or not, this has actually been done before. In 1974, the A's owner, Charlie Finley, perhaps best known for wanting to use an orange baseball, employed a college sprinter named Herb Washington, solely for the job of pinch-running. Washington stole 33 bases in 105 career games, and oddly enough, never recorded an at-bat.
Despite Washington's mixed results (he was caught stealing 17 times in his 48 attempts), the Bolt experiment is something still worth trying. Assuming you can teach him how to slide and round bases, MLB teams could have a guaranteed stolen base every time they put him in the game.
Consider that, on average, it takes the ball approximately 3.2 seconds to travel from the pitcher to the catcher and then down to second base. Based on his 100m world-record time, Bolt could get from first-to-second is 2.7 seconds. He'd beat the throw there by a half-second (an eternity, really) every time (and that doesn't even include a lead or a great jump).
As everyone begins their playoff push, Bolt and his speed could be just the thing to put a team over the top, and allow them to play into October.