TAMPA, Fla. — Former Serra High School (San Mateo, California) baseball coach Pete Jensen had no doubt that Tom Brady would make it big.
“I thought that was his best sport,” Jensen said. “I thought baseball was his best sport.”
Jensen was Brady’s high school coach.
“Tommy hit a home run, he actually hit two that day, but one of them hit the roof of the bus and woke the driver up, kind of startled him,” Jensen said with a chuckle.
In 1995, Brady was a standout catcher and considered a solid prospect by Montreal Expos’ scout John Hughes.
“First of all he had good size, 6-4,” Hughes said. “He had a body we called projectable where he had room to get stronger, add weight. He was a left-handed hitter which went nice with the catching position. He had some tools. He could really throw and he had power. For a catcher, he had those things and stood out.”
Brady was considered a second-round talent. But, the Expos drafted him in the 18th round because he was likely going to the University of Michigan to play football. Little did they know he would go onto win his seventh Super Bowl title.
“It was a questionable sign-ability,” Hughes said. “You don’t ever want to lose one of your top ten picks because you can’t sign them.”
“They threw pretty good money at him, I think,” Jensen said. “It was in the Bradys’ minds that he would be a football player.”
During the scouting process, Hughes took Brady to San Francisco’s Candlestick Park to workout with the visiting Expos.
“We got him in uniform,” Hughes said. “There were two guys that I had a relationship with. One was F.P. Santangelo.”
“So this kid is following me around all day,” Santangelo said. “He’s sitting in my hitting group.”
“The next thing I know, they go through batting practice which he did really well there,” Hughes said. “Then they come back in, Tom is sitting in one guy’s locker and these guys are huddled around him, six or seven players saying…”
“We’re like why in the world would you make $800 a month, play in front of 100 people in the minor leagues, riding buses for ten hours when you can play in front of 100,000 people at (Michigan’s) Big House on Saturday,” Santangelo said. “Enjoy the college experience. So, John’s experience kind of backfired. We were supposed to say ‘hey Tom, play baseball and we were like hey Tom, play football.”
As they say, the rest is football history. Brady went on to the NFL Draft where he was pick number 199 to the New England Patriots.
“It’s funny I take a lot of ribbing now how I could’ve ruined the history of the NFL,” Hughes said.
Hughes still has his hand-written notes on Brady as a reminder of the one that got away.
“It was pretty obvious the family wanted him to go to school, play football,” Hughes said. “But, I will say it was the most enjoyable summer I ever spent not signing a guy.”