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07/02/09 5:30 PM ET
Aikman excited about stake in Padres
NFL legend discusses ownership role after first-pitch toss
By Amy Brittain / MLB.com
SAN DIEGO -- Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman donned his signature No. 8 jersey on Thursday, but this time he wore a Padres uniform in place of his familiar Dallas Cowboys gear. Aikman, a partial owner of the Padres, tossed out the ceremonial first pitch before the finale the Padres' series with the Astros at PETCO Park. Aikman's pitch came a day before Friday's soldout game at PETCO Park, which features the return of Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez from a 50-day suspension after a positive drug test. The ceremonial pitch wasn't exactly stellar, instead bouncing into the glove of Padres pitcher Chris Young, a Dallas native. "I'm glad you saw that -- the one hop," Aikman said. "I was hoping you missed that." Aikman said the toss was significantly better than his opening pitch at a Rangers game shortly after his retirement in 2000. "[I threw it] harder than what I should have to Pudge [Ivan] Rodriguez," he said. "I one-hopped it into him, only with a lot more speed on it. He was not happy about it." Aikman is a member of the Jeff Moorad-led ownership group that bought about 35 percent of the Padres this spring. According to reports, the ownership group is set to acquire 100 percent of the organization within five years. Aikman said several factors influenced his decision to join Moorad's group. Their friendship, which developed when Aikman was leaving UCLA and heading into the pros, certainly gave Aikman confidence in the venture. The two men also share ownership of a NASCAR company. "Even though my background is obviously in football, I felt this would be a good opportunity for me," Aikman said. Although his expertise lies in football, the California native knows his share about baseball. "At the time I was living here in Southern California, I thought that baseball would really be my avenue," Aikman said. "When the family moved to Oklahoma when I was 12, it was pretty clear that football was the focus in that part of the country." Aikman excelled in both football and baseball in high school, even garnering some interest from the New York Mets. "I was aware enough at that age that I still wanted to say years down the road at 42, 'Yeah, I got drafted by the Mets,'" he said. "The night before the Draft they called and said, 'Look, we have to know what it's going to take for you to come to the Mets. We don't want to waste a pick.'" Aikman gave them a number -- $200,000. "This guy on the other line had this incredulous voice and said, 'What? Darryl Strawberry doesn't even make $200,000,'" Aikman said. The Mets representative clearly scoffed at the offer but wished him well at Oklahoma, which was Aikman's collegiate choice before transferring to UCLA. He played 12 years for the Dallas Cowboys, winning three Super Bowl titles and racking up more than 32,000 yards and 165 touchdowns. Aikman said his involvement with the Padres will allow him to witness the "business side of sports." "I've kind of been on the periphery of that as a player and now as a broadcaster," he said. "To hear why things are being done ... and that's not to imply that I'm involved in those decisions as they're being made. It's a learning experience for me." Overall, Aikman didn't reveal too many specifics about the ownership setup, instead expressing some cautious optimism for the future. "I don't want to say it's a work in progress, but I don't think anybody came into this thing without being realistic. It's going to take some time," he said. "I think everybody feels very confident that good things are about to happen."
Amy Brittain is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.