Long before Frank Thomas hit 521 home runs and was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, he was a tight end at Auburn under longtime Tigers coach Pat Dye.
Thomas played one year under Dye, catching three passes for 45 yards in 1986 for the 10-2 Tigers. He signed up to play baseball at Auburn, too, and was a freshman All-American on the diamond the following spring. It was around then Dye came to him with a hard truth.
“When I got to Auburn, I saw how deep the program was,” Thomas told reporters in a press conference in Chicago on Wednesday. “Every position was four deep … Coach Dye told me at the time, you might want to start thinking about baseball. He told me that baseball could be my future. We have three guys right there with you, same talent and same spring. You have a special talent here in baseball and you might want to start thinking about that. He was right.”
Thomas went on to be a first-round pick of the White Sox in 1989 and, according to Baseball-Reference.com, earned over $100 million in his 19-year career. And while he probably would’ve figured it baseball was his sport for himself, Dye at least helped push him in that direction early on.
Safe to say, he made the right choice. Even if baseball wasn’t his preferred sport.
“Football was my game,” Thomas said. “… But I could play baseball and I could play baseball at a high level, but I grew up down south and people didn’t care about baseball. It wasn’t the cool sport back then. But I had an out.”