Pat Mahomes was a 21-year-old when he opened the 1992 season as a rookie in the Twins rotation. He stayed there until June, went back to the minors and returned as a September call-up.
Mahomes was on the major league roster in spring training of 1993. He was well aware of the limited dollars on which minor leaguers subsisted, and he would share the generous per diem of a major leaguer with acquaintances from the minors.
“That’s when Pat and I became friends – the spring of 1993,’’ LaTroy Hawkins said. “He would take a few of us, Matt Lawton, me, a couple of other guys, out for dinner. We usually went to Hooters for wings.’’
LaTroy didn’t make it to the big leagues until 1995, and then briefly that season. Yet, LaTroy and Mahomes became such close friends that when Pat’s first son, Patrick, was born on Sept. 17, 1995, Hawkins accepted an invitation to be the godfather.
Patrick was barely a toddler around the ballpark (the Metrodome) in 1996. LaTroy does have this vivid memory:
“That kid loved French fries, dipped in ketchup. He went after that ketchup.’’
The Twins gave up on Mahomes and traded him to Boston on Aug. 26, 1996 for a player to be named (pitcher Brian Looney). Hawkins stayed with the Twins for the remainder of the lost years of the ‘90s and became part of the turnaround in the 2000s. He left as a free agent after the 2003 season.
Hawkins and Mahomes stayed close. LaTroy took his duties as godfather seriously, taking a special interest in the youngster.
“As a little kid, you knew that Patrick was going to be an outstanding athlete,’’ Hawkins said. “He could run, he could throw a baseball, throw a football, much easier than other kids his age.’’
Pat Mahomes had been the young pitcher with an assortment of pitches and a tremendous future. He never reached that potential the Twins saw for him as a starter in 1992.
Eventually, Mahomes became a reliever and pitched in portions of 11 seasons. He pitched the last on his 308 big-league games for Pittsburgh on Aug. 26, 2003.
He tried to get back to the big leagues over the next six seasons. He first pitched in independent baseball for Long Island in the Atlantic League in 2006, and also had stays with Sioux Falls in the American Association.
The Twins tried Hawkins as a starter, then a closer, and finally in a setup roles. That’s where he found himself. As a pitcher very much reliant on a fastball, he had an astounding career – 21 seasons and 1,042 games.
That number does not include 22 appearances in the postseason, including three for Toronto in his final season of 2015.
Hawkins moved to the Dallas area a number of years ago. Mahomes always has lived in the area of Tyler, Texas, where he was a tremendous three-sport athlete in high school before signing with the Twins in 1988.
Patrick lived with his mother, with his father nearby and involved in his athletic development.
“I didn’t get to see Patrick play that much baseball, because I would be playing myself,’’ Hawkins said by phone Friday night. “His Dad would Facetime some games to me. Patrick pitched and played shortstop.’’
LaTroy paused and added: “I’ll tell you, he could throw a baseball. But when he threw the football, that was extra special.’’
Mahomes went to Texas Tech. Nobody throws a football more than a quarterback at Texas Tech. Patrick became the starter halfway through his freshman season in 2014. He put up enormous numbers the past two seasons, and then his pre-draft workouts were outstanding.
Entering Thursday’s start of the NFL draft, he was projected to go in the first round, along with North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky and Clemson’s DeShaun Watson. The Bears outbid themselves to move up one place to second to take Trubisky.
Eight selections later, Mahomes received as tremendous of an endorsement as a quarterback can get: Andy Reid, the offensive master of the Kansas City Chiefs, traded into the No. 10 slot to draft Mahomes.
Hawkins had driven the two hours to Tyler to be at a restaurant where Mahomes’ family and friends were gathered. Was everyone surprised about Kansas City’s move to get Patrick?
“We didn’t know it would be Kansas City, but everyone was certain he wasn’t going to last much past 10th,’’ Hawkins said.
How was it to see that little French fries eater heading off to the NFL as a 6-foot-3, 230-pound gunslinger of a quarterback?
“I was a proud godfather,’’ LaTroy said.