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Kopech was once outdueled by this quarterback

NFL MVP and White Sox top pitching prospect were high school rivals in Texas
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- Patrick Mahomes II was given the NFL's Most Valuable Player Award on Saturday in Atlanta, after throwing for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns and propelling the Kansas City Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game this season.

But to Michael Kopech, the White Sox top pitching prospect and a friend of Mahomes from their youth in Texas, Mahomes always was a baseball guy.

CHICAGO -- Patrick Mahomes II was given the NFL's Most Valuable Player Award on Saturday in Atlanta, after throwing for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns and propelling the Kansas City Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game this season.

But to Michael Kopech, the White Sox top pitching prospect and a friend of Mahomes from their youth in Texas, Mahomes always was a baseball guy.

"In my opinion, Pat Mahomes the pitcher also plays football," Kopech said during a SoxFest interview. "To everybody else, it was probably the other way around.

"I thought he was going to sign when he got drafted. I thought he would get drafted higher than he did, but he wanted to play football. He knew what he wanted to do and obviously that's panning out for him pretty well."

Tweet from @MichaelKopech5: .@PatrickMahomes5 I remember when that was a baseball & it was 95 MPH #DamnSon https://t.co/dfTro8g3QO

Kopech, 22, says the duo's competitive friendship took root when they were 8 or 9 years old. They would begin to pitch against each other as they grew older and developed their craft. Although Kopech went to Mount Pleasant High School and Mahomes attended Whitehouse -- schools not in the same conference -- they became big rivals, according to Kopech.

"For some reason, we really hated their team, and I don't know if their team hated our team back," Kopech said. "We really decided that we wanted to beat Whitehouse more than any other team we played. We were able to really compete but kind of build a friendship out of everything because we knew that we wanted to compete at the next level. It was much deeper than a high school baseball game for both of us. Those were always the most fun games, pitching against him."

Quite possibly their most memorable matchup came in early March 2014, when Mahomes outdueled Kopech in a 2-1 victory. According to various news reports, Mahomes threw a no-hitter, struck out 16 and touched 92 to 95 mph on the radar gun. Kopech reached 98 mph and struck out 12.

At the plate in that game, Kopech struck out in all three at-bats and Mahomes reached on an error and struck out twice. Kopech texted with Mahomes before sitting down for this interview, and Mahomes wanted it to be known that he took Kopech deep on a couple of occasions -- a statistic that a smiling Kopech would not corroborate.

Tweet from @PatrickMahomes5: I got the 🔥 never was good on throwing the strikes lol https://t.co/3OsF8Ul9l6

What he would talk about is the immense number of scouts in attendance for that contest. Game coverage lists the total at around three dozen, but Kopech believes there were more.

"If I had to guess how many scouts were there? 60, at least," Kopech said. "There's a picture of it somewhere, and you just see waves of radar guns.

"That's a Top 5 [game] for me. I know that's kind of silly to say. It's a high school game and I've pitched in so many. I will never forget that game. It was a lot of fun."

Unfortunately for Kopech, he actually got ejected with two outs in the seventh after trying to mediate a dispute between his teammate and an opposing player at second.

Mahomes was selected by the Tigers in the 37th round of the 2014 Draft, but he elected to play football at Texas Tech instead of following the career path of his dad, Pat, who pitched in 308 games over 11 big league seasons. Kopech was selected 33rd overall by the Red Sox in the same Draft and now stands as a potential future White Sox ace after coming to Chicago in the Chris Sale trade.

Video: NYY@KC: Chiefs QB Mahomes throws out first pitch

There's a big part of Kopech that is happy for Mahomes' great success. But on a much smaller level, he misses their baseball rivalry.

"Once he has his MVP and the NFL Hall of Fame, once he's done with all that, he's going to come play baseball," Kopech said. "We'll do it again. In the back of my mind, I still think he's going to come back and play.

"We really pull for each other. There's not many guys who come out of the 903 area, as we call it. To see him perform at the highest level -- and hopefully me being back there pretty soon -- it's pretty cool for both of us."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox, Michael Kopech