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Christensen Goes Out for New Challenge--Baseball

February 23, 1990|RON KROICHICK | MCCLATCHY NEWS SERVICE

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A player wearing a green Oakland A's jersey, No. 32, stretches near the batting cage. He has a muscular upper body. Long, curly strands of hair extend beyond his baseball cap.

The man looks a lot like Todd Christensen, a former football player, the guy who played tight end for the Raiders.

Funny. It is Todd Christensen.

He wears no shoulder pads, no silver and black. He does not run a post pattern toward second base. He wields a baseball bat and steps into the box.

He bunts the first two pitches. Then he sends the next one soaring toward the right field fence. Tell it goodby.

"That was pretty exciting," Christensen said later. "I thought, 'What's there to this? It's easy.' "

Christensen injected color into another faceless, emotionless day of Lockout '90. He came to Scottsdale Community College for a tryout with the world champions.

Though he did not expect an instant contract offer--and didn't get one--this was not an exercise in comedy. Christensen seldom smiled.

His agent, Alan Hendricks, called A's General Manager Sandy Alderson last week. Alderson, remembering a 1987 interview with Christensen on ESPN's "SportsLook," gave the request more than idle thought.

When told of Christensen's inquiry, Walt Jocketty, the A's director of baseball administration, laughed. After watching Thursday's tryout, he figures it was worth a couple of hours on an otherwise quiet February day.

"We did it as a favor," Jocketty said. "I think he wanted to get some sense of what we thought of his ability.

"There are definitely some basic skills there. But at his age, there's too much to do in too little time."

Christensen is 33. That's two years too young to play in the senior baseball league, a more likely destination for this strange odyssey.

The Raiders released him last fall after a decade as one of the NFL's top tight ends. He caught 95 passes in 1986. He played in four Pro Bowls.

But he had not played baseball since his days at Sheldon High School in Eugene, Ore. His career there was impressive enough for him to be taken in the 1974 baseball draft.

But Christensen preferred to play tight end at Brigham Young. Baseball waited for more than 15 years. Then, driven partly by curiosity, partly by competitiveness and partly by ego--not, he stressed, by money--he began working out in Los Angeles in December.

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