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The Montreal Expos could have changed NFL history


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As a fan of the defunct Expos and NYJ, this stings...

Tom Brady as a big league catcher? Meet the Expos scout who failed to lure the NFL superstar to baseball

 
JAN 30, 2019 | 3:35 PM 
  
 
 

John Hughes had little doubt Tom Brady would make it. Even as a high school kid, Brady was big, strong and had an unusual sense of self. The kid had a real presence no matter where he was or who he was around. From his years scouting the high schools of Northern California, Hughes could immediately tell that Brady was a special athlete.

But for Hughes, then a scout with the Expos, Brady will always just be the “one that got away” - from him and baseball. Every time Brady, a future NFL Hall of Famer, has quarterbacked the Patriots to the Super Bowl, baseball scouts across the country get back in touch with him. He pulls out some of his hand-written notes about Brady and he has a good time thinking about that summer.

And he never doubts that Brady would have been a big leaguer.

“I never had as much fun scouting a player that we eventually didn’t sign,” chuckled Hughes, now an area scout with the Marlins. “We knew we didn’t have a good chance to sign him, because he had the scholarship (to play football for the University of) Michigan.

 

“But he was so talented. I told his father, let’s see what happens and have some fun with it. We did."

Could Tom Brady have made his mark as a big leaguer? One long-time scout has no doubt about his baseball ability.
Could Tom Brady have made his mark as a big leaguer? One long-time scout has no doubt about his baseball ability. (Steven Senne / AP)

Obviously, on the eve of his ninth Super Bowl appearance, Brady chose the right career path.

But Hughes still believes that the lefty-hitting catcher he saw back at Serra High in San Mateo would have made it to the big leagues.

“He was drafted in the 18th round because everyone knew how difficult it would be to sign him,” Hughes said. “He was very talented. I mean on talent alone he would have been projected a late second-round pick.

“And I believe he would have made it, as a catcher, he would have gotten there.”

In his scouting reports, Hughes recalls Brady as already being around 6-3, “good athletic body” and “obviously” he could throw, Hughes said with a laugh. He had power to the pull-side and a good instinct for the game.

“His personal makeup was what made him stand out,” Hughes said. “When the (Expos) came to play the Giants, I took Tom and his dad to the ballpark. We got him in a uniform and had him take batting practice, took him into the clubhouse and let him meet some of the guys. I looked over a few minutes later and he’s sitting in front of a locker with guys all around him talking to them.

“He was very comfortable and confident around them,” Hughes remembered. “Obviously, he belonged in a professional locker room.”

Tom Brady celebrates his second Super Bowl win and has added three more titles since and will go for No. 6 on Sunday.
Tom Brady celebrates his second Super Bowl win and has added three more titles since and will go for No. 6 on Sunday. (Dave Martin / AP)

Ultimately, that may have been the beginning of the end of Brady’s baseball career.

Hughes had gotten close to a few Expos players, F.P. Santangelo, whom he had coached at the University of California, and Rondell White. He left Brady in their care in the clubhouse for a while and they were there with other players asking him all about his future plans.

“I heard some of those guys say ‘You have a scholarship to Michigan? Go to school. Why would you want to ride around on buses in the minor leagues,” they asked. “Go to school.”

Obviously, that is what Brady ended up doing; choosing football.

After four years at Michigan, the NFL scouts weren’t as sharp as Hughes at seeing Brady’s talents. He certainly didn't wow the NFL folks at the league's annual scouting combine. The Patriots eventually took him with the 199th pick (sixth round) of the 2000 draft, in what is now considered one of the biggest “steals” in professional sports.

The rest is history, of course.

Tom Brady and the Patriots face the Rams on Sunday in Atlanta ... the ninth time he will play in the Super Bowl.
Tom Brady and the Patriots face the Rams on Sunday in Atlanta ... the ninth time he will play in the Super Bowl. (Matt Rourke / AP)

Brady has won five Super Bowls and has been the MVP of the game four times.

Hughes was last in contact with Brady after the second Super Bowl, in 2004, but he keeps tabs on the kid that got away through his high school baseball coach, who he has long been friends with.

“It was a lot of fun,” Hughes said. “You don’t usually think of the ones that got away as fun, but he was such a great kid, such a nice family. It was a fun experience.”

And every time Brady is back in the Super Bowl, Hughes gets to relive it a little bit. And (caution trigger warning for Jets fans) he thinks about what might have been if Brady chose the other path.

“I was at a party watching the game one year and a friend turned to me and asked what would have happened if I had gotten Tom Brady to sign,” Hughes said with a laugh. “We could have changed the history of the NFL, I guess.”

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1 hour ago, CanadienJetsFan said:

As a fan of the defunct Expos and NYJ, this stings...

Tom Brady as a catcher? Meet the Expos scout who failed to lure him to baseball

Tom Brady doesn't need to be in the MLB to be a catcher.  Once a catcher, always a catcher.

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The bottom line is could he hit a curve ball. But even if Brady had a baseball body if you saw pics of him during his combine shirtless he was pretty skinny. Look the thing with Brady is he wasn't a big time prospect. It's mostly from the neck up and heart why he became a great player. That's why he lasted until the 6th round even Belichick didn't draft him any earlier. But at Umich and later with NEP he beat out Qbs who were big time prospects or established. I don't like the guy sure but he's someone who took his talent and went for it and made it. He's a great success story. 

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