Stanford Today Edition: November/December, 1996 Section: Sports WWW: A Cardinal for All Seasons
Chad Hutchinson was what it takes. Twice over
By Jeff Brazil
Money, even when it comes in seven figures, can't buy everything. Baseball's Atlanta Braves organization learned as much when Chad Hutchinson, one of the nation's best high school pitching prospects in 1995, turned down their $1.5 million offer to turn pro after high school. Chad had another idea: Become a starting pitcher and the starting quarterback for Stanford's baseball and football teams.
And lest you think this was an easy decision for an 18-year-old guitar-strumming Southern California surfer - don't. After a modest, make-ends-meet upbringing for five kids and their mom, Martha, a cool million-plus seemed an unfathomable sum, more loot than Chad ever thought he would make in a lifetime.
He had grand visions of his strapping, six-foot-five-inch frame behind the wheel of a Porsche. Mom (she didn't know it) was going to get a brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee, leather seats, two-tone paint, the works.
But something happened on the way to the bank vault.
"The money was incredible, but I decided to go with my heart," says Hutchinson. "The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to have the whole college experience to look back on. Plus, I wanted to be a kid a little longer."
A heady decision, say those closest to this would-be philosopher with the cannon-arm. And a typical one.
It's a sun-rich September afternoon on campus. Outside the Arrillaga Family Sports Center, a sandal-clad Hutchinson has arrived by bike. He is every bit the laid-back collegiate: shorts, long and baggy shirt, untucked. He has just come from his cluttered dormitory room, which has no phone.
As he drinks in the scene - the rustling eucalyptus trees, Hoover Tower, the occasional passing coed - it is apparent that he wouldn't swap any of it, phone or no phone, for anything.
"I just couldn't put a dollar value on all this," he says.
The normally upbeat Hutchinson is somewhat glum on this particular day because Tim Carey, a fourth-year junior who lost out in a fierce competition for starting quarterback, has quit Stanford to enroll at Hawaii. Though competitors, Hutchinson and Carey were roommates and friends.
As an athlete, Hutchinson says he is thrilled to have won the job. As a person, the victory is bittersweet.
"It's hard to see Tim leave. He worked very hard," Hutchinson says. "I feel badly for him."
Longtime Hutchinson family friend and confidante Gary E. Marshall credits Chad's sound upbringing for such sensitivity. In the hectic Hutchinson household, says Marshall, people were never too busy to encourage and support one another. "He's very loyal," Marshall says.
And Chad's mother says "he doesn't consider himself above anybody else; he doesn't exalt himself."
The oldest son of Lloyd Hutchinson, a college basketball standout who played in the Philadelphia Phillies baseball organization, Chad took to sports early - tennis, volleyball, baseball, football; you name it, he played it.
His father coached him in Little League. And Martha Hutchinson distinctly recalls going to every single one of Chad's Little League games - though she was not necessarily present for every inning. Chad's kid brother, Trevor, often had games at the same time, and "when that happened, I would make sure and go to three innings of each," she says.
By his junior year at Torrey Pines High School in Del Mar, Calif., Hutchinson had distinguished himself in football and baseball. Prior to his senior season, he was tabbed the number one high school prospect in the nation by Baseball America.
Stanford baseball coach Mark Marquess remembers the first time he saw Hutchinson pitch in the spring of his senior year. "The thing that really impressed me the most," Marquess says, "was his size, his athleticism and the type of competitor he was. When a player is that competitive, it rubs off on teammates."
Marquess and Stanford football coach Tyrone Willingham met with Hutchinson and his family and made their pitch: He could come to Stanford and try his hand at both sports. They told him a number of elite athletes had done the very same thing and gone on to successful careers in the pros, among them, John Elway, and Brian Johnson of the San Diego Padres.
There was, however, one hurdle: the Braves and their tantalizing offer.
Hutchinson was surprised by the Braves' offer, generous even by today's inflated standards. His mother insisted that his desire to help his family should be second to what was best for him. "I wanted him to go to Stanford, but I was not going to tell him that," she says. "I wanted the decision to be his."
Ultimately, he decided to embrace the college experience and the challenge of trying to excel at two sports.
The Braves' reaction?
"You might go so far as to say they were shocked," says Marshall, who dealt with the Braves organization throughout the negotiations.
Coaches Willingham and Marquess were ecstatic. "Not many young men would say, 'No, I'm going to school' and turn down $1.5 million. I respect him for that," says Marquess.
After compiling a 7-2 record in his first baseball season and helping Stanford earn a 41-19 record overall, Hutchinson was named First Team Freshman All American. In his first few games as quarterback, Hutchinson's performance was uneven but improving. Willingham says it's too early to tell whether Hutchinson's future is in baseball or football.
Barring injury, Marquess says, Hutchinson will have the opportunity to make much more than $1.5 million in the long run. Which means Martha Hutchinson may get that Jeep Grand Cherokee after all.
"Let's hope so," Chad says. "I think she'd look pretty good in one of those." ST