Having Patrick Mahomes run around the fields at the former spring training home of the Texas Rangers in Port Charlotte, Fla. was no big deal.
He was just a cute 5-year-old kid throwing a baseball to his daddy in spring training, and hanging out with the Texas Rangers during the season.
By the time Pat Mahomes was pitching for the Texas Rangers in 2001, he already had his son, Patrick, accustomed to being around big-league parks, beginning with the New York Mets.
“I was actually one of the first guys with the Mets to bring a kid on the field; everyone was scared he’d get hurt,” Mahomes said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “It was a way for me to spend time with him, and just to see how guys prepare. In the case of (then Rangers infielder) Alex Rodriguez, seeing how a guy at the top of his game worked and prepared for each game. I think it helped.”
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The Patrick Mahomes people know today is not the former big-league pitcher, but rather the son, the starting quarterback of the Chiefs who will likely win the NFL MVP award after throwing for 50 touchdowns and 5,000 yards.
“Probably since he was about 5 I thought he was going to have a chance to do some special things,” the elder Mahomes said. “I just thought it would be baseball.”
The year Mahomes signed with Texas was the homecoming he desired, and yet it was completely forgotten that offseason.
The Rangers had signed A-Rod to a 10-year, $252 million along with veterans Ken Caminiti and Andres Galarraga to complement a lineup that had Pudge Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro and Rusty Greer.
Adding a reliever like Mahomes did not move the needle. He didn’t care.
His kids were in East Texas, near Tyler, and the Rangers were as close as he could get.
“I wanted to stay so I could be closer to (to his son) and coach his team and see him,” Mahomes said. “(Managers) Johnny Oates and Jerry Narron would let me go back to coach his games on Saturday mornings, which was great. It was better to be able to do than just seeing him for a few weeks in the summer.”
The father of one of his son’s closest friends growing up coached the Little League team, and the two would stay in constant contact about anything.
“He would message me and say, ‘Patrick is at 40 pitches. Can he go one more inning?’” Mahomes said.
Despite playing for an awful team that big bats and no arms, Mahomes openly lobbied anyone who would listen, including a certain Rangers’ beat writer, for a contract to be with the Rangers for the 2002 season.
Mahomes had been a decent reliever with a durable arm, but he was an expendable piece on poorly built team. The Rangers blew it up after the ‘01 season, and new GM John Hart did not re-sign Mahomes. He pitched for two more big-league seasons, and his 11-year career in the majors was over.
“I really did want to go home and show (Patrick) some of the things I messed up doing and hoped he would not make the same mistakes I made,” Mahomes said. “I got to the big leagues pretty quickly, and once I got there I learned I really had not worked. I had to figure that out.”
He was still sure his son would pursue baseball. Mahomes had been raised around the game; his godfather is former big-league pitcher LaTroy Hawkins.
Once Mahomes became the starting quarterback at Whitehouse during his junior season, baseball wasn’t necessarily over, but football was a priority.
Mahomes sat with his son in their East Texas living room on MLB Draft Day in 2014, with an offer.
“It was from the Diamondbacks and they just needed him to say yes and they were going to draft him,” Mahomes said. “They were going to give him a nice amount of money to play, but he had to decide if he was going to play baseball or football.”
Mahomes Sr. himself was a sixth round pick of the Minnesota Twins out of Bryan in 1988. By 1992, he was in the bigs.
But the son had an opportunity to play football that the father never did.
“He just fell in love with football. I knew that,” Mahomes said. “Thousands of people in the stands, being the man who could dictate and change the game. He’s a student of whatever game he’s playing. He had played baseball for so long he knew every situation. He thought it was way through it.
“There was so much for him to learn in football and that’s what he loved.”
Mahomes says none of what his son did this season for the Chiefs caught him by surprise.
“If you look at it, he’s been doing this exact same thing since he was a starter at Whitehouse, or at Texas Tech,” Mahomes said. “The numbers are pretty much exactly the same. He’s been doing it since he was in the 11th grade.”
Having been a pro athlete for more than a decade, Mahomes knows the drill. He knows how hard success is to maintain at this level. He knows trajectories fluctuate. He made it to the big leagues, only to be out for a year when he had to go to Japan to keep playing before he returned to the MLB.
LaTroy Hawkins pitched 21 big-league seasons, but not every year was a good one.
Neither Mahomes nor Hawkins wants to sit Mahomes down to prepare him for the problems that await.
“He listens to LaTroy a lot and he’s a good guy to talk to because it’s a different voice,” Mahomes said. “I talked to him about these situations and expectations, and LaTroy told me it was good advice but let’s not put these thoughts in his head. To let him do what he does. He’s smart and he can adjust.”
Despite the fact his parents did not live together, and because of Mahomes’ career he had to be away often when he was little, the son reveres the father. So much so that before a Chiefs’ home game in October, he walked into the game wearing his father’s New York Mets jersey.
The elder Mahomes, who works with MLB’s program to encourage and grow the game in urban areas, was unaware what his son was doing. One of the young players Mahomes works with sent him a text, and then he saw his son wearing his old uniform.
“That was a special day in my life,” Mahomes said. “I saw it on Twitter, and I started to cry. There have been a lot of miles following him and the rest of the kids to their sporting events, and to see that he had this dream to be a football player, that it was paying off ... it was just very special.”
Mahomes is only 23, so this dream is far from over.
“You know, I don’t know what’s going to happen (when the Chiefs host the Colts in the AFC Divisonal playoff game),” Mahomes said, “I just know prepare to see something you’ve never seen before.”