Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Royals nearly inked 1985 Draft pick Deion

Two-sport star chose college after verbal agreement with KC
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- Could the Royals have had Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders in the same outfield in the late 1980s and early '90s? Yep, it came very close to happening.

Longtime Royals fans know the legacy of multisport superstar Bo Jackson. The Royals drafted him in the fourth round of the 1986 MLB Draft and he played five seasons in Kansas City, authoring numerous legendary moments, while also starring for the NFL's Los Angeles Raiders.

KANSAS CITY -- Could the Royals have had Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders in the same outfield in the late 1980s and early '90s? Yep, it came very close to happening.

Longtime Royals fans know the legacy of multisport superstar Bo Jackson. The Royals drafted him in the fourth round of the 1986 MLB Draft and he played five seasons in Kansas City, authoring numerous legendary moments, while also starring for the NFL's Los Angeles Raiders.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

But the Royals also came within an eyelash, and a late-night steal, of also landing Sanders. They drafted Sanders out of North Fort Myers High School in Florida in the sixth round of the 1985 Draft, with the 149th overall pick.

That Draft was loaded with superstars such as B.J. Surhoff, Will Clark, Barry Bonds, Barry Larkin, Rafael Palmeiro and so on.

Kansas City used the 17th overall pick that year to take shortstop Brian McRae, the son of Royals Hall of Famer Hal McRae. Brian converted to a center fielder and had a productive 10-year Major League career primarily with the Royals, Cubs and Mets.

But then Royals scouting director Art Stewart took a chance in the sixth round with Sanders.

"We had a scout covering a high school game in Bradenton [Fla.], and we were actually looking at some other players," Stewart said. "But when we got the report back, it was all about this kid named Deion Sanders. Nothing but glowing reports about him. So we started to scout him."

Sanders was a three-sport star at North Fort Myers High School.

"He was just 17 years old," Stewart said, "but he had amazing tools. He had speed and power. He hit from the left side and he could really fly. He ran a 3.94 to first, which for 17 years old, is pretty fast."

Video: Deion Sanders has a World Series to remember

Stewart discussed the possibility of drafting Sanders with the Royals' front office.

"We knew it would be difficult to get him," Stewart said. "We knew he wanted to play football at Florida State. But we were persistent. We kept at it. And when the Draft came around, we thought we'd take a chance."

Video: CIN@CLE: Deion robs Grissom of hit with diving catch

In the days after the Draft, the Royals' confidence that they could sign Sanders grew.

And then one night, Stewart had a heart-to-heart phone call with Sanders, and they agreed to a $40,000 deal.

"That was a lot of money back then," Stewart said. "Especially for a sixth-round pick."

Stewart dispatched one of his scouts to Fort Myers that night to get the paperwork signed. But by the time that scout arrived the next morning, Sanders had changed his mind and signed with Florida State and legendary coach Bobby Bowden.

"We had a verbal agreement over the phone," Stewart said. "But our scout got there too late. Somehow, in the middle of the night, Florida State got to him and signed him. I mean, we had him."

Sanders went on to have a standout career at Florida State. And in 1988, the Yankees drafted him and signed him. The following year, the NFL's Atlanta Falcons took Sanders with the fifth overall pick, and his two-sport career began.

Sanders debuted with the Yankees in 1989. Eventually he also played baseball with the Braves, Reds and Giants. Sanders' baseball career was so-so: He did lead the league in triples with 14 with Atlanta in 1992.

Video: ATL@CHC: Deion hits two-run go-ahead homer in 8th

Sanders never really came back to hurt the Royals. He played in eight games against Kansas City and hit .226. Overall, Sanders, in a nine-year MLB career, slashed .263/.319/.392.

But Sanders had a Hall of Fame NFL career, amassing 53 career interceptions and two Super Bowl rings.

"The funny thing is," Stewart said, "if he had signed with us, and we had developed him, I think he would have been a helluva baseball player. He had all the tools."

The Royals were known for drafting future NFL players back then. In 1979, they also drafted Dan Marino out of Pittsburgh and John Elway out of Stanford. Neither signed with Kansas City.

"We could have had a helluva football team back then," Stewart said.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals