At 20 seasons and counting, Tom Brady’s NFL career is destined to go down as one of the greatest of all time. Most pundits consider the six-time champion the best quarterback in history. It’s easy for fans to assume Brady was destined for football excellence from his earliest years. On the contrary, a life of football was not always a foregone conclusion for Brady.
Instead, the 14-time Pro Bowler spent his formative years prepping for a career as a pro baseball player. He was even drafted by the Montreal Expos way back in 1995. Let’s look at Brady’s lifelong connection to baseball and what made him finally choose football in the end.
An early commitment to baseball
Brady played baseball long before he ever donned a football uniform. In part, this was because baseball was a far more popular and competitive sport where Brady grew up in Northern California. Yet he didn’t just pursue baseball out of convenience; he was good at it too. As Brady himself summed it up recently on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast, “Baseball was kinda what I did.”
Brady spent two years playing high school varsity baseball. As a right-handed catcher who batted from the left, he showed significant power, both in his throwing arm and his swing. In his two years of varsity, Brady batted .311, with 44 RBIs, and eight home runs. He was known for being far more cerebral in his approach to the game than most of his peers.
Brady’s ceiling was high enough that the Expos selected him in the 18th round of the 1995 MLB draft. The Expos even considered him a potential All-Star and were determined to lure him to the MLB. They tried to pay him far more money than the average 18th round pick might ever expect, upping the offer to what most second- or third-round picks might expect.
Brady decides to pursue football out of passion
At first glance, Brady’s decision to pursue as a major league catcher might have seemed like a no brainer. Yet there was just one problem: by that point, Brady had already fallen in love with football.
In his interview with Dax Shepard, Brady credited the nearby 49ers with sparking his passion for the gridiron, saying: “The 49ers were great when I was growing up. In the ’90s, they had a great football team. So [those were] my most influential years as an athlete was around football.”
Of course, he didn’t give up baseball entirely. Instead, he played both sports concurrently. The incredible thing, however, was that Brady had never played organized football before his freshman year. At one point in his interview with Shepard, he told a humorous story about not even knowing how to put on his uniform:
“When you get to your first day of practice and everyone starts putting all of their pads on and putting their pads in their pants, I’m like, ‘How do I put these in my pants?’ I don’t know the shoulder pads. It was pretty unique not to have any experience.”
As a freshman, Brady rode the bench as a backup quarterback, never even playing in a single game. He’d improved drastically by the end of high school, but even then he still wasn’t the Tom Brady we know today.
Could Brady have succeeded in the MLB?
Whether Brady could have succeeded in the MLB is one of the greatest “what ifs” of modern sports. Most commentators agree that Brady would have been an above-average baseball player. Former Expos GM Kevin Malone — the man who drafted Brady — has even gone on the record as believing that Brady could have been one of the greatest catchers ever., details Bleacher Report.
It’s tantalizing to imagine what it might have been like if Brady had played for the Boston Red Sox, maybe even suiting up alongside his future brother-in-law Kevin Youkilis. Yet even in the best-case scenario, Brady likely would never have had the same impact in baseball as he’s had in football. For that matter, he probably wouldn’t have made quite as much money either. Chances are, Brady has no regrets in either department.