On Sunday, football will take the national stage with Super Bowl LV in Tampa. It’s veteran Tom Brady going for his seventh Super Bowl victory and first with the Buccaneers, while 25-year-old Patrick Mahomes is trying to win back-to-back rings for the Chiefs. But both of these star quarterbacks could’ve been playing for World Series titles if their athletic careers would’ve gone in slightly different directions.
Brady and Mahomes are both former MLB draft picks and have a history of also flashing their athletic greatness on the baseball field. Brady, 43, was taken in the 18th round of the 1995 MLB Draft by the Montreal Expos. Mahomes, meanwhile, heard his named called in the 37th round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the Detroit Tigers.
Both athletes made the wise choice to pursue careers on the gridiron instead, but we wanted to celebrate this Super Bowl matchup by taking a look at what they could’ve been like if they chose the baseball diamond. Here’s what both Brady and Mahomes could’ve been like as professional baseball players.
Before we dive into Brady’s baseball potential, we wanted to share something fun to emphasize both Brady’s NFL longevity and the extreme age gap between him and his opposing quarterback. In 1995, Brady was a Major League Baseball draft pick; the Montreal Expos selected Brady as the 507th pick in the 18th round. That’s the same year Mahomes was born. The 18-year age-gap between Brady, 43, and Mahomes, 25, will be the largest age difference between two starting quarterbacks in Super Bowl history. Alright, now, back to Brady’s baseball career.
In high school, Brady played two years of varsity baseball and finished with a .311 batting average with eight home runs, 11 doubles, and 44 RBI as a left-handed batting catcher. Even in 2003 as a young 26-year-old starting quarterback for the New England Patriots, Brady was still able to show off some pop at Fenway Park:
According to Sports Illustrated, Brady displayed the same leadership fans see now in the NFL back when he was just a teenage baseball player. More:
Behind the plate, Brady was just as adept. He chatted up umpires before games the same way he chats with referees now, presumably hoping that friendly conversation might influence close calls later in the game. [Brady’s high school baseball coach] Pete Jensen let his catchers call their own games—a luxury many college coaches don’t afford their players—and Brady embraced the challenge. He would meet with pitchers before games and discuss strategy: how they were going to set up hitters and attack their weaknesses. Brady had played against a lot of these hitters in leagues growing up and knew their tendencies. “He had a book in his mind on these guys,” says Jon Chapman, Serra’s ace pitcher that year. “If I tried to shake him off, he’d throw down the same darn sign. It was like, OK, we’ll go with it. Tommy knows what he’s doing.”
Former Expos scout John Hughes covered high schools of Northern California, and when he noticed Brady at Junipero Serra High School (also where Gregg Jefferies and Barry Bonds played) in San Mateo, California, he knew immediately that Brady would going to be a special athlete, he told the NY Daily News.
For Hughes, Brady will always be the “one that got away” from baseball. In his scouting reports for Brady, Hughes regarded the high school backstop as having a “good athletic body” and the power to pull-side with good instincts for the game. Here’s more from Hughes via NYDN:
He was drafted in the 18th round because everyone knew how difficult it would be to sign him. He was very talented. I mean on talent alone he would have been projected a late second-round pick. And I believe he would have made it, as a catcher, he would have gotten there.
His personal makeup was what made him stand out. When the (Expos) came to play the Giants, I took Tom and his dad to the ballpark. We got him in a uniform and had him take batting practice, took him into the clubhouse and let him meet some of the guys. I looked over a few minutes later and he’s sitting in front of a locker with guys all around him talking to them.
Ultimately, Brady chose to attend the University of Michigan where he had a football scholarship, forgoing the often-arduous journey through the minor-league system to the big leagues. In another universe, Brady could have caught for Mahomes in MLB. Wild, right?
Now, for Mahomes, baseball runs in the family. Patrick Mahomes’ father, Pat Mahomes, played 11 seasons as a pitcher in the major leagues, playing for the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Minnesota Twins during his career from 1992-2003. The younger Mahomes grew up around MLB players and in professional baseball clubhouses, played in high school and made one final, brief appearance with the Texas Tech baseball team before calling it quits.
“Patrick was always out there, that was what he wanted to,” Mahomes Sr. told NFL Network. “He wanted to get there early, go down there and hit with A-Rod, he wanted to go out and shag balls with the team, take his batting practice with the team and then go to the nursery.”
During his freshman year at Texas Tech, Mahomes’ only collegiate pitching appearance came during the 2015 season, and it didn’t go great. He failed to retire all three batters he faced, walking two and giving up three earned runs. Mahomes felt as if he topped out in baseball his senior season of high season.
“So, I think I have an infinity ERA, which isn’t probably a good one. But, yeah, that’s not something that I’m very proud to have on my record,” Mahomes told reporters during one of this week’s Super Bowl media session.
As a senior in high school at Whitehouse High School in Texas, Mahomes reached 94-95 mph with his fastball and threw a 16-strikeout no-hitter his senior year. He also was able to play the outfield thanks to his impressive arm strength.
Detroit Tigers crosschecker Tim Grieve regards Mahomes as possibly the best multisport athlete he’s ever scouted.
“He was the best player on the field or on the court in three different sports,” Grieve told MLB.com. “It wasn’t like you were just talking about one sport, one position. I’m pretty sure he would’ve been good at whatever he wanted to do. And you see the smile. 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.”
He was drafted in the 37th round by the Detroit Tigers (No. 1,120 overall selection) but kept his commitment to Texas Tech and didn’t sign. Mahomes is an outstanding athlete and has a Mike Trout-like build at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds.
“Obviously you see his [Mahomes] baseball background in his delivery,” Brady told reporters on Friday. “He delivers it with a lot of arm angles. He’s got a lot of whip from his throwing. That’s a good quality to have as a quarterback. Throwing from multiple angles and trying to manipulate the rush and so forth. We all take a little bit from our youth to try to use it as we get older.”