Thursday, July 2, 2009
Aikman throws out first pitch
SAN DIEGO -- Twenty-five years after drawing interest from the New York Mets coming out of high school, Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman is dabbling in baseball again.
This time it's as a part-owner of the San Diego Padres.
Wearing a Padres jersey with his familiar No. 8, the former Dallas Cowboys star threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Thursday's game against the Houston Astros. He bounced it in the dirt just in front of right-hander Chris Young, a Dallas native.
Aikman is an investor in the group headed by Jeff Moorad that has bought 35 percent of the Padres from John Moores and has five years to buy the rest. Moorad used to be partners with Aikman's agent, Leigh Steinberg.
"I've known Troy a long time, and I don't care what he says, but I guarantee he wasn't happy with the one bounce," Moorad said.
"I was hoping you'd miss it," Aikman cracked to reporters.
Growing up in Southern California, Aikman played both Little League and Pop Warner but figured baseball would be his main sport.
When he was 12, Aikman's family moved to Oklahoma, "and over the next few years it was pretty clear that football was where the focus was in that part of the country and that was the route I was going to go," he said.
He had already signed a letter of intent to play football at Oklahoma but the Mets expressed an interest in drafting him as a catcher or outfielder during his senior year at Henryetta High, Aikman recalled.
The Mets kept calling and asking him how much money it was going to take for him to skip college and play ball.
"I was aware enough at that age that I wanted to say, years down the road, at 42, 'Yeah, I got drafted by the Mets,'" Aikman said. "And so I kept holding off, holding off, and the night before draft, they called and said, 'Look, we have to know what would it take to come to the Mets. We don't want to waste a pick.'
"I just threw out a figure, I said $200,000, and I had no idea what that really meant," he said. "And I was sure if they said OK, that I'd go. This guy on the other end of the line had this incredulous voice and just said, 'What? Darryl Strawberry doesn't even make $200,000,' and he was the man at the time. I said, 'Well, I'm going to make that if I'm going to go sign with the Mets.' And he said, 'You have a good career at Oklahoma.' That that was kind of the end of it. I didn't go on and have a great career at Oklahoma but I was able to get out of there and got to UCLA as fast as I could."
Aikman went on to become the No. 1 pick overall in the 1989 NFL draft.
A six-time Pro Bowler, he passed for 32,942 yards and 165 touchdowns during his 12-year NFL career.
Aikman said he's made a "significant" investment in the Padres but declined to give a figure.
The Padres began the day fourth in the NL West, nine games under .500 and 15 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"I don't want to say it's a work in progress, but I don't think anybody came into this thing without being realistic," he said. "It's going to take some time. As was the case in Arizona, I think everybody feels very confident that good things are about to happen."
He was referring to Moorad's previous stop in Arizona, where he helped turn around the Diamondbacks.
"He's a great partner in any business and I'm thrilled to have him part of the Padres," Moorad said about Aikman. "At the end of the day you can't surround yourself with too many winners."