You may not know this, but there is a big game - a super big game - involving our friends across the parking lot this weekend. The Kansas City Chiefs will play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a chance to win their second consecutive championship. The two quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, are known for being among the greatest in the game, but another trait they share is that they were both selected in the Major League Baseball draft. Brady was selected in the 18th round of the 1995 draft out of high school by the Montreal Expos, while Mahomes was selected in the 37th round of the 2014 draft by the Detroit Tigers.
Mahomes is better known for his football acumen, but you have thought baseball would be his true calling at one point. It is well known that his father, Pat Mahomes, enjoyed an 11-year MLB career as a pitcher, playing mostly for the Twins. He did spend a season near the end of his career in the Royals organization, pitching in seven games for Triple-A Omaha in 2006.
The younger Mahomes had a good arm that impressed coaches on the mound, and a solid bat to boot. When he was 14, he played shortstop for a team from Tyler, Texas that reached the finals of the 2010 Junior League World Series.
Early on in high school, it seemed like baseball would be Mahomes’ ticket to professional sports. He loved football, but was ready to give the sport up before his junior year before his mother, Randi, convinced him to stick with it. After playing at safety in his sophomore season, he took the starting quarterback job in his third game of his junior season and happened to have a big game during a rainstorm while an assistant from Texas Tech was in attendance. That would pretty much seal his fate as a football star.
But Mahomes continued to excel on the baseball diamond. He drew the attention of pro baseball scouts, but insisted he was committed to play college football. Still, some 40 scouts came to see him face off in the playoffs against pitcher Michael Kopech, now a top prospect in the White Sox organization. Kopech - who would be the 33rd player selected overall in the MLB draft that June - tossed a one-hitter with 12 strikeouts. But he would be bested by Mahomes, who struck out 16 in a no-hitter and a 2-1 victory.
Congrats to Detroit Tigers 2014 37th round draft pick Patrick Mahomes on making it back to the Super Bowl!— Baseball Quotes (@BaseballQuotes1) January 25, 2021
Mahomes once out-dueled White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech in high school, tossing a 16-strikeout no hitter! pic.twitter.com/R5OJYZMs2w
Mahomes had a fastball clocked around 92-93 mph and also scored the first run of the game after reaching on an error.
“It’s definitely the best I’ve felt all season,” Mahomes told local reporters after the game. “I’ve had to get control of my stuff this season. I’ve been working here and since before the season, getting my velocity up like it was today. I’m hard to hit.”
Baseball America ranked him as the 419th-best prospect in that draft that spring, ahead of current big leaguers like Caleb Smith, Scott Heineman, and Trevor Oaks. Had he been more open to signing with a MLB team, he likely would have gone in the first 15 rounds. Instead, Detroit took a flyer on him in round 37. Tigers area scout Tim Grieve called him “one of the better athletes I’ve covered in East Texas in my 15 years” and suggested he could have had success either on the mound or in the outfield.
“Scouting isn’t easy. So you see a kid and you start seeing the tools come together. But it’s so easy to watch a kid play and you see he’s having fun, and above and beyond the ability. He’s got the stuff that tells you he’s going to be good. … He might have ended up being a center fielder and hitting third in your lineup. I’m not even sure pitching was the best thing he did.”
Baseball America agreed that he may have had a future as a hitter, writing in their scouting report that “some evaluators like him better as a hitter who is an average runner with plus raw power from a raw offensive approach.”
Mahomes received only three scholarship offers to play football, and ended up committing to Texas Tech. After starting four games at quarterback for the Red Raiders in the fall, he suited up for the baseball team in the spring of his freshman year. Texas Tech led Northern Illinois 6-0 in an early non-conference game in February, and brought in their phenom freshman quarterback to pitch, drawing a standing ovation from the crowd.
It did not go well. Mahomes hadn’t practiced with the team much due to his football commitments, and he had added a lot of muscle since his high school baseball days. His catcher, Tyler Floyd, who had seen him in high school, immediately noticed the difference.
“In high school, this guy threw absolute cheese,” Floyd said. “And then he gets out there, and he throws his first bullpen, and I’m like, ‘What the hell?’”
Mahomes walked the first hitter, sending one pitch behind his back. He hit the next batter in the butt. He walked the third hitter on five pitches. That would be it. Fifteen pitches, eleven balls. Mahomes’ college pitching career was over.
After a few more bullpen sessions showed he was no longer the pitcher he once was, he served as a backup third baseman, going hitless in two at-bats, with coach Tim Tadlock keeping him around mostly because he was a good guy to have in the clubhouse.
I knew that Patrick Mahomes briefly played on the Texas Tech baseball team but I did not know that he pulled the extremely rare Failed To Record An Out As A Pitcher/Failed To Get On Base As A Batter combo.— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) February 1, 2021
∞ ERA, ∞ WHIP,
.000 BA pic.twitter.com/ooZfHW8mLw
Mahomes decided to quit baseball and focus solely on football. I’d say that worked out just fine for him, and everyone in Kansas City is grateful for his decision.