Tom Brady’s retirement appears to officially close the book on a historic MLB franchise.
Back in 1995, the Montreal Expos with the 507th overall pick — 18th round — took a left-handed hitting catcher out of Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, California, named Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr.
It was a low pick for a player of his caliber, but the underlying assumption in the draft had been that he would not take the MLB route and instead go to play college football at the University of Michigan. That wound up being a correct assumption.
The Expos are no longer an MLB team, and Brady was the final player drafted by the Expos to play in his respective pro sport.
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But still, there is a scenario that exists where Brady is a catcher in the big leagues, calling pitches behind the plate instead of calling plays under center. How close? The Sporting News breaks it down.
Tom Brady’s baseball career
Brady mostly made his name at Junipero Serra High School as a quarterback. But that didn’t mean he was limited to the one sport.
When he began his high school baseball career, Brady was a first baseman, a position of limited mobility, which would likely make sense for anyone aware of his future 40 time at the NFL combine. However, he made the transition to catcher in his senior year, 1995, according to the San Francisco Examiner.
“You’ve got to give Tommy a lot of credit,” coach Pete Jensen told the Examiner, “because he really struggled in the first half of the season. He just couldn’t buy a hit. He was below .200 for a while. But he’s really come back.”
The Examiner recounted how he worked his way up to fifth in the batting order and came up clutch for the team as he launched a pair of home runs.
In his senior year, he was named to the first-team All-West Catholic Athletic League all-star baseball team as the catcher. Also on the team was Pat Burrell, an infielder, who would go on to win World Series rings with the Phillies and Giants.
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Brady’s profile made him an intriguing prospect in the baseball world. His bat looked potentially impactful behind the plate, and his arm ensured he could control the running game. But his commitment to Michigan to play football led people to doubt that he would sign to play baseball and he fell to the Expos in the 18th round.
According to MLB.com, Brady hit .311 with eight home runs in two varsity seasons in high school and reportedly hit a home run at the Mariners’ stadium with a wooden bat. His power was one of his carrying tools, as was his powerful arm.
“I think he would have been a pro,” former Expos scout John Hughes said, according to MLB.com. “He had all the intangibles. He could throw, left-handed power. There is no reason to think this guy couldn’t have been a big-league catcher.”
The Expos general manager at the time, Kevin Malone, thought highly enough of Brady that he believed the catcher could make a real impact for Montreal, according to Bleacher Report.
Malone said he was an athletic, strong player who had the frame to develop more upside.
“I think he could have been one of the greatest catchers ever,” Malone said, according to Bleacher Report. “I know that’s quite a statement, but the projections were based on the fact we had a left-hand-hitting catcher, with arm strength and who was athletic. … But his first love was football.”
One of Brady’s football teammates at Serra said those who played alongside him at the school thought he would follow the footsteps of another of the school’s alums, Barry Bonds.
“We all thought he was going to be a pro baseball player. He was a really good catcher,” John Kirby told Bleacher Report.
After he was drafted, Brady took batting practice with the Expos, according to the Montreal Gazette, as the team tried to make its pitch to get him to choose baseball. Some of the Expos’ players apparently did not provide the most encouraging message.
WFTS reported that Brady was with the team at Candlestick Park in San Francisco working out with the Expos, and outfielder F.P. Santangelo remembers the team asking Brady why he was considering baseball when he had a scholarship offer to play at Michigan.
“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 10 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 Hughes’] experience kind of backfired. We were supposed to say ‘hey Tom, play baseball and we were like hey Tom, play football.”
So Brady wound up forgoing his chance to go the majors and instead went to Michigan. Five years later, he was drafted 199th overall by the Patriots, and the rest is history.
Congrats @TomBrady on an unbelievable career. It was fun to watch! https://t.co/zkobgugR52
— Derek Jeter (@derekjeter) February 1, 2023
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Notable MLB draft picks behind Brady
The MLB draft lasted a long time back then, with 1,664 different players hearing their name called by MLB teams during that year.
While there were several notable players taken before Brady — Hall of Famer Roy Halladay and hard-throwing hurler Kerry Wood certainly stand out among the most notable — there were others drafted and signed by teams after Brady that went on to have big-time careers.
Mike Lowell was drafted by the Yankees in the 20th round, and was named to four All-Star teams and won World Series rings with the Marlins and Red Sox. Current Giants manager Gabe Kapler was drafted in the 57th round and signed by the Tigers. Aaron Miles and Brian Fuentes were drafted in the 19th and 25th rounds and each went on to have successful MLB careers.
There were also a few big-name players selected after Brady who did not sign with their teams in the 1995 MLB draft, but came back to the majors later. David Ross was drafted in the 19th round by the Dodgers, Juan Pierre was taken in the 30th round by the Mariners, Brad Lidge was drafted in the 42nd round by the Giants and Mark Mulder was taken in the 55th round by the Tigers.
Burrell, who played high school baseball against Brady, was drafted in the 43rd round that year.
Brady was also one of seven future NFL players drafted by MLB teams that year. Chad Hutchinson was taken in the first round, Ricky Williams was drafted in the eighth round, Lawyer Milloy was drafted in the 19th round, Danny Kannell was taken in the 25th round, Daunte Culpepper was drafted in the 26th round and Michael Bishop was selected int he 28th round.
Last active Expos draft pick
Brady’s decision to retire officially closes the book on athletes drafted by the Montreal Expos.
The Expos became the Washington Nationals after the 2004 season. Montreal had drafted several notable players, including Vladimir Guerrero (1993), Andre Dawson (1975), Larry Walker (1984), Gary Carter (1972), Tim Raines (1977), Randy Johnson (1985), Cliff Lee (2000) and Javier Vazquez (1994).