Here’s the good news about Christian Hackenberg’s attempt to make it to the majors as a pitcher: He’s already played in as many major-league baseball games as NFL games.
Hackenberg, who was briefly and disastrously an Eagle in the summer of 2018, is trying to reinvent himself as a professional pitcher, and he’s beginning the long journey right here in the Philadelphia area.
I feel like I’ve got a lot left in the tank,” Hackenberg said. “And if one door closes and I have the opportunity to open another one, why not do it?
NBC Philadelphia’s Rob Kuestner caught up with Hackenberg in Vineland, at The Complete Pitcher, a backyard pitching facility that's the brainchild of Rutgers Camden baseball coach Ryan Kulik, an all-state pitcher at Cherokee High School in Marlton and an NCAA Division 3 All-America at Rowan University in Glassboro.
Kulick was taken in the 8th round of the 2008 draft by the Cards and went on to play several years of minor-league and semi-pro ball, reaching Triple-A in 2014 with the Rockies' Pacific Coast League affiliate, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
“He’s been up to 92, but I’d say right now he’s consistently (throwing) 90,” Kulick told Kuestner. “But he just started throwing. It’s going to take him some time, but I think he can get to 95-plus in no time.”
Hackenberg is the only quarterback drafted in the first or second round in the last 39 years who never got into an NFL game.
Hackenberg didn’t play baseball at Penn State, but he did play in high school.
According to MaxPreps, which tracks high school athletic stats, Hackenberg had a 1-3 record with a 7.36 ERA pitching for Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy. He struck out 33 batters in 25 2/3 innings but walked 40.
His last year at Fork Union was 2013, so it appears he hasn’t played organized baseball in seven years.
“I got the arm, I have the arm talent, can I get to the point where I have some good command and good control?" he said. "And can I get to the point where I’m out competing at a high level where I think I belong? … Mentally, what I miss the most, I think.”
The Jets drafted Hackenberg with the 51st pick in 2016. He never played for the Jets and then had brief stints with the Raiders, Eagles and Bengals.
Hackenberg was with the Eagles from Aug. 12 through Sept. 1 of 2018.
He played in one preseason game for the Eagles, going 7-for-16 for 69 yards with two interceptions and a 16.9 passer rating against the Jets at the Linc on the final day of the 2018 preseason.
His longest completion was a 25-yarder to Donnel Pumphrey, who ironically has also never played in an NFL game.
Hackenberg last played football for the Memphis Express of the AAF, which folded in April of 2019. He completed 52 percent of his passes with no touchdowns, three interceptions and a 43.5 passer rating in three games.
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