Troy Aikman ... New York Met? It could have happened

April 28th, 2023

AMARILLO, Texas – On Thursday, Troy Aikman had a Draft story to tell.

No, not that Draft.

At Amarillo’s HODGETOWN to throw out a first pitch, help out behind the bar and promote his EIGHT beer line on Thursday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback reminisced about the time he almost got his first taste of the pros ... with the Mets.

“They called me the night before the Draft and said, ‘What was it going to take to not go to Oklahoma and play football?’” Aikman said pregame. “I said it’s going to take $250,000. Darryl Strawberry was their best player at the time, and they said, ‘$250,000? Darryl Strawberry doesn’t even make $250,000.’ Well, if you want me, that’s what it’s going to take. And he said, ‘Have a nice career in Oklahoma.’

“So my baseball career pretty much ended after high school.”

The math checks out. In 1984 (the year Aikman would have been Draft-eligible), Strawberry was one year removed from winning National League Rookie of the Year honors and, according to records kept by Baseball-Reference, made $230,000, just below the future Cowboys star’s asking price.

It was almost certainly a ploy by the Henryetta (Okla.) High School star athlete to see what he could extract before going full bore onto the gridiron.

For starters, he likely would have to have needed to change positions. Like many good athletes with strong arms, Aikman spent his prep days playing shortstop and pitching for Henryetta, making the most of two premium positions on the diamond. Scouts who approached him about going pro wanted to see how he’d fit in the outfield or even behind the plate.

“They thought I was too tall for shortstop,” Aikman, who measured in at 6-foot-4 in the NFL, told “Ripken was playing then, but he was one of the bigger guys. Most shortstops weren’t my size, and I don’t think I had enough power to be in the outfield. Not that catchers don’t have power, but I don’t know where I would have played.”

The former Dallas signal-caller noted that he thought he would have had a chance to play in college, either at Oklahoma or UCLA where he later transferred, but the need to fight for QB jobs during spring practice outweighed his desire to pick up a bat and glove. He didn’t truly feel secure as a collegiate starter until he was a fifth-year senior in 1988 when he threw for 2,771 yards and 24 touchdowns for the Bruins and finished third in Heisman Trophy voting.

His baseball chances truly ended when the Mets hung up.

“I was a good player for where I was playing and what I was doing,” Aikman said of his high-school days. “But yeah, I don’t kid myself. I chose the right sport. I wouldn’t be where these guys are tonight if I’d gone for baseball for sure.”

“These guys” referenced Double-A players from Amarillo and Frisco, meaning Aikman has come to terms that he likely wouldn’t have even reached two stops away from the Majors had he stuck with the national pastime.

That isn’t to say Aikman doesn’t share something in common with the Texas Leaguers he saw play Thursday night. As a former No. 1 overall pick who went on to win three Super Bowls with Dallas and earn his place in Canton, he’s been to the mountaintop of professional sports. Those D-backs and Rangers prospects are still climbing their way toward what they hope are similar summits.

“I saw a number of players come through the Cowboys that had great talent, and they weren’t willing to do what’s necessary to be great,” Aikman said. “That’s their choice, but oftentimes, what happens is when they get my age, they look back on what could have been and they have big regrets for not giving it everything they have.

“That was basically my message [to them]. If it’s what you want and it’s your dream to be in the big leagues, make sure you don’t look back when you’re my age and have any regrets.”

Not listed among Aikman’s regrets: Asking for Strawberry money after all.