Yankees' Exec Damon Oppenheimer Talks Scouting Patrick Mahomes as Prospect

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2020

Texas Tech NCAA football quarterback Patrick Mahomes throws out the ceremonial first pitch before  a baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers on Friday, May 13, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was on the New York Yankees' radar ahead of the 2014 MLB draft.

Yankees amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer told Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media that area scout Mike Leuzinger, who tracked Mahomes at Whitehouse High School in Texas, "really liked him" and thought he possessed legitimate upside both in the field and on the mound.

"He thought the guy had a future in baseball," Oppenheimer said this week. "He thought he could hit, that he could play the outfield, that he was athletic. He liked him quite a bit and he also thought he had a big arm in case something happened and he could pitch."

Mahomes slid in the 2014 draft because of his firm commitment to Texas Tech to play football. The Detroit Tigers took him in the 37th round, but as expected, he didn't sign a baseball contract.

Oppenheimer admitted convincing a player with the star quarterback's football potential to travel on buses to play low-level minor league baseball is a tough sell, per Kuty.

"When a guy has these options of being a really good quarterback who's going to walk in and play at the Division I level real quick, it makes it an obstacle to try and put him in minor league baseball and have him go and spend years trying to refine his skills and play as a minor-leaguer as a guy who's playing college football as a quarterback, and he's quickly into the NFL," he said.

Mahomes didn't immediately give up on baseball, though. He served as a relief pitcher and pinch hitter for the Red Raiders' baseball team early in his collegiate career.

He made a single pitching appearance in 2015, and it didn't go well. He faced three batters, hitting one and walking the other two, and all three came around to score, giving him an infinite ERA. He also failed to record a hit in two plate appearances that season.

While that small of a sample size says virtually nothing about his baseball abilities if he focused solely on the sport, it probably helped eliminate any lingering doubts about his future.

Now 24, Mahomes already has the 2018 NFL MVP award on his resume and is set to lead the Chiefs into Super Bowl LIV against the San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 2.

"He's had a pretty darn good career in football," Oppenheimer told Kuty. "So it would be a loss to the NFL game if he wasn't playing there because it's been pretty exciting to watch."

It's still intriguing to wonder if anything would have changed if the big-spending Yankees acted on Leuzinger's instincts, jumped on Mahomes earlier in the draft and offered him a lucrative signing bonus.

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