By David Wilhelm
January 30, 2002
When the St. Louis Cardinals wooed former Stanford quarterback Chad Hutchinson away from football in 1998, they were convinced they had a pitcher who soon would help anchor their staff.
But Hutchinson, after struggling last season at Triple-A Memphis, decided Jan. 26 to turn his back on baseball, signing a seven-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys, one of about 20 NFL teams that had expressed interest in him.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Hutchinson, 24, was awarded a $3.1 million signing bonus. He will receive $5 million over the first three years of the deal, which are guaranteed.
“We do have some disappointment,” said John Mozeliak, the Cardinals’ director of baseball operations. “At least from what he told us, he had no intentions of trying out for football.
“We do wish him well. We wish he was coming to (spring-training) camp with us. But that won’t happen.”
Hutchinson, a righthander, has a no-baseball clause in the contract with the Cowboys. He started 23 games for Stanford in 1996 and 1997, completing 379 of 627 passes for 4,235 yards, 20 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.
Hutchinson was 4-9, 7.92 last season at Memphis, where he had 104 walks and 111 strikeouts in 98 innings. He worked in 27 games, including 20 starts.
Hutchinson broke camp with the Cardinals last spring and was on the opening-day roster. He made three relief appearances in April, going 0-0, 24.75 and allowing three homers and six walks in four innings before being outrighted to Memphis.
“He would argue he never got used enough at the major-league level to ever get into a rhythm, and there might be some truth to that,” Mozeliak said. “But he just never got untracked.” Still, the Cardinals hadn’t given up on Hutchinson, who they selected in the second round (48th overall) of the 1998 draft.
“We thought he was right on the edge of breaking through and having a successful major league career,” Mozeliak said. “He had size, a great arm and he even had an outstanding out pitch. That slider was a devastating pitch.”
The Cardinals aren’t sure whether Hutchinson ever lost his desire to be a professional football player, and his struggles last season might have encouraged him to pursue that avenue.
“Baseball was something I really enjoyed, but I really wanted to explore my passion for football,” Hutchinson told The Associated Press. “It’s always been in the back of my mind.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called Hutchinson a “future project,” much like the Cardinals had in 1998.
“I recall when the negotiation process was going on after college,” Mozeliak said. “It was really geared toward a four-year plan. He had some quick success and then some setbacks. The fact that there were some struggles for him on the mound, it was something he didn’t anticipate.
“But we figured it would take some time, because he wasn’t like your typical college pitcher. He was a guy who pitched every Saturday at Stanford. That was it. And he had spring drills for football.”
Scouting director Marty Maier also was disappointed to see Hutchinson walk away.
“The stuff he had was outstanding,” Maier said. “We just needed him to be more consistent throwing strikes.
“You hate to lose a guy. This guy hadn’t gotten it yet, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have come this year or the year after.”