Patrick Mahomes’ baseball career is ancient history now, but once upon a time, the hard-throwing reliever was among the better high-school pitching prospects in his native Texas. That figures—Mahomes’ father, journeyman right-hander Pat Mahomes, logged 308 pitching appearances for the Twins, Red Sox, Pirates, Mets, Rangers and Cubs over 11 MLB seasons. The Tigers drafted Mahomes as a 37th-round pick out of Whitehouse High School, though by then, the star quarterback had already accepted a full scholarship to Texas Tech.
It’s a good thing football worked out for Mahomes, because his college baseball career lasted all of 15 pitches, 11 of which were balls. The 25-year-old recounted his disastrous pitching debut on February 21, 2015, entering with the Red Raiders leading Northern Illinois 6-0 in the ninth inning.
“It was like Chuck Knoblauch,” said former catcher Tyler Floyd, describing the extent of Mahomes’ “yips” during his freshman season in Lubbock. Recounting Mahomes’ baseball exploits in a 2019 profile for The Athletic, Jayson Jenks notes the future Chiefs star received a standing ovation from appreciative home fans at Dan Law Field. But even with the crowd behind him, Mahomes just didn’t have it that day.
“I came into the game. I walked the first guy, I believe. I hit the second guy. I gave up a double. They scored a run and then I got taken out of the game,” Mahomes reminisced during Wednesday’s media availability. “I think I had an infinity ERA. That’s not something that I’m very proud to have on my record.”
Mahomes got it mostly right (the official box score can be found here). He walked the first batter, pinch-hitter Carl Russell, on five pitches before plunking Malique Ziegler, a freshman center-fielder at the time, right in the caboose.
“I still probably have that bruise to this day,” Ziegler relayed to Jenks. “That freaking hurt.”
Sean Thompson, who relieved Mahomes later in the frame, was actually the one who allowed the double. The third and final batter Mahomes faced, second baseman Justin Fletcher, walked to load the bases with nobody out.
“I don’t think he threw anything close,” said Fletcher, who had been in an 0-for-12 drought before he stepped in against Mahomes. “If he did, I would have been out. I couldn’t hit anybody.”
Mahomes, who received another ovation upon getting the hook from skipper Tim Tadlock, never pitched again for Tech, though the Red Raiders kept him on their roster as a backup third baseman for the remainder of the year. After starring with 4,653 yards and 36 touchdowns under coach Kliff Kingsbury (now of the Arizona Cardinals) that fall, Mahomes correctly surmised that football was his true calling, leading him to give up baseball for good.
Mahomes, who will compete for his second Super Bowl this Sunday in Tampa, obviously made the right call choosing football. The same could also be said of his Buccaneers counterpart Tom Brady, who many might not remember was an 18th-round pick of the Montreal Expos in 1995. Brady had been a star catcher at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, California, the same alma mater as big-league legend Barry Bonds.