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How Pat Dye helped push Frank Thomas toward a Hall of Fame baseball career

Frank Thomas AP

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, 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.”

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9 Responses to “How Pat Dye helped push Frank Thomas toward a Hall of Fame baseball career”
  1. rolltide510 says: Jan 9, 2014 5:15 PM

    “Also, Dye made it clear to me baseball players at auburn get paid almost as much as the football players, so there wasn’t any worries there.”

  2. afrancis55 says: Jan 9, 2014 5:18 PM

    Lol a Bama fan talking about another team paying players.

    Oh the irony.

  3. oldschoolnflman says: Jan 9, 2014 5:25 PM

    Well if Thomas is right (that a lot of steroid users started because they were jealous of what his size and power did to a ball) can we blame Pat Dye for the steroid era? Just playing.

    Great story I’m glad frank switched fulltime to baseball. Loved watching the big hurt!

  4. nicofthenorthstar says: Jan 9, 2014 5:38 PM

    Talk about making the right career move. Besides the money and fame, the Big Hurt doesn’t have to live out the rest of his days with any number of big hurts he would be dealing with had he continued to play football.

  5. dcroz says: Jan 9, 2014 7:54 PM

    Congratulations to Frank Thomas on his Hall of Fame election! He was an incredible player and worthy of this recognition.

  6. ebrownwareagle says: Jan 9, 2014 8:57 PM

    Right The Nerve of Alabama FANS!!! That’s Funny! But Let us not 4get The Sun Shines and Set on Alabama Football; GODS gift to US all. The ONLY PROGRAM in AMERICA that is HOnEST as ABE! Pun Intended!

  7. normtide says: Jan 10, 2014 1:35 AM

    Back to the story. Thomas was probably the cleanest power hitter of his era. Meaning he was proudly also the best. I tip my hat to a baseball legend.

  8. wadaea says: Jan 10, 2014 10:27 AM

    Frank thomas is from our home town and he has supported and funded many projects. Another great Auburn man.

  9. dadawg77 says: Jan 10, 2014 1:26 PM

    Forgot the Bo Jackson tire in where Dye said he had watched Bo and that Frank was better than Bo at baseball. So if Bo didn’t play baseball would Dye have told Frank to play football, if not is it unfair to blame the steroid era in baseball on Frank’s teammate Bo Jackson?

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