Inside the Detroit Tigers' Decision to Draft Patrick Mahomes and His MLB Career That Never Was
By Mark Powell
Patrick Mahomes is an MVP, Super Bowl winner, Super Bowl MVP, and in line for the richest contract in NFL history. The rest of his career is laid out for him, should he choose the straight and narrow path. He'll have enough money stored away for his children, grandchildren and the generations to follow.
What's not to love?
Yet, there remains an alternate universe, one far different than the Chiefs-dominated media landscape we currently live in, where Mahomes opted for another journey -- one where he followed his family lineage on the diamond rather than on the gridiron.
Mahomes' MLB scouting report was simple, per those in the know: a 91-93 MPH fastball with capable breaking pitches. He could've also been a corner outfield power bat, if he so desired. The possibilities were endless, and that's just one reason teams continued to check in and see if Mahomes' insistence on playing football was ever, perhaps, wavering during his high school days.
The Detroit Tigers took a flyer on a then-18-year-old Mahomes, a three-sport athlete at Whitehouse High School in Texas, in the 37th round of the 2014 MLB Draft. Such status is typically reserved for projects or, in the Tigers' case, making a good impression.
"With Patrick, it was as simple as 'here's a kid who looks like he's going to play football BUT...let's be that team that started to build the relationship so that if he wants to play baseball 2-4 years down the road, we've got our foot in the door," Tim Grieve, longtime scout of the Detroit Tigers, told 12up in an interview.
Per Grieve, Mahomes could've graded out as a third- or fourth-round prospect (or higher) at some point, had he opted to focus solely on baseball. It's a choice that, quite clearly, Mahomes wasn't comfortable making, but speaks to his abilities nonetheless.
"He's the type of prospect where you say let's get our uniform on this guy and figure the rest out later," Grieve said, while also adding that Mahomes had the kind of ability and self-confidence to succeed in whichever position he might've chosen as a long-term project. "With any of these kids it's always a dream."
Like the Russell Wilson's and Kyler Murray's of his day, Mahomes was destined to leave baseball behind him. Grieve, for one, understands that decision. Football offers the rare athletic specimen successful enough to traverse a narrow field into professional aspirations something baseball doesn't, and that's immediate financial payout and fame.
"You could've (tried to) throw a dollar figure at him...the fault with that is do you really want to convince a kid by throwing money at him? To me that's just asking for trouble," Grieve said. "What was being portrayed from his side was clearly 'football is what I would like to do'. I think a lot of people that scouted Kyler Murray would probably tell you the same thing."
Yet, in many ways, Mahomes' multi-sport presence is part of what makes him so special, both in football and baseball. Between the sidelines, Mahomes freelances and makes highlight-reel plays every week, flipping the ball to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce like he's a wide-ranging shortstop making an unthinkable throw across the diamond. In baseball, it was that fun-loving, human element that scouts fell in love with.
"The energy, the passion, the leadership...you can tell he's having fun when he plays. When you go see a high school baseball prospect so many are robotic, but he was different. He was just letting his athleticism and passion for playing take over. That was very evident at a young age...he was that same guy when he was playing baseball," Grieve said. "I loved that Patrick was a multi-sport kid."
In the end, it's Mahomes ingenuity and ability to use that natural athleticism and youth -- those traits Grieve and baseball scouts like him fell in love with -- that make the 24-year-old such an infectious talent on and off the field.
It also, naturally, makes us wonder "what if"?