Then he tried baseball "for the fun of it, I guess," he told The Advocate in August 1988, two months after he found himself drafted by the San Diego Padres.
"I enjoyed football and had a lot of fun up there with it, and got my education paid for," Sager told The Advocate. "And, I still got an opportunity to play baseball. I guess, if I wouldn't have played baseball or wouldn't have been drafted, I might have said 'What if (I would have tried baseball first)?'"
Not only did Sager's late start in college still get him a chance at the pros, he also still got his chance at the majors. After playing his first pro game in 1988 at age 23, Sager went on to make the majors in 1994 at age 29 - and he eventually saw big league time over five campaigns.
Sager's career began that year in 1988, taken by the Padres in the 10th round of the draft out of the University of Toledo.
He started with the Padres at short-season Spokane. He went 8-3, with a 5.11 ERA over 15 starts. HE then made single-A Charleston in 1989, AA Wichita in 1990 and AAA Las Vegas in 1992.
In April 1994, he debuted with San Diego. He had a slow start, including one outing where he allowed two home runs and a double over seven batters faced. Sager chose to look forward, according to The North County Times.
"I know I can pitch effectively at this level," Sager told The Times then. "Last night didn't go well, but I'm not going to get defensive about it and start pitching afraid."
Sager got into 22 games, three starts. He went 1-4, with a 5.98 ERA. He then signed with the Rockies for 1995 and saw 10 more big league outings.
He arrived with the Tigers for 1996. He saw 22 outings, nine starts that year, with a 5.01 ERA. He then played each of the next two seasons with the Tigers, seeing 38 and 31 outings each. He went 4-2 in 1998, with a 6.52 ERA to close out his big league career.
By 2002, Sager had started his post-playing career as a coach with the Tigers at single-A West Michigan. He coached at AA Erie in 2007, then AAA Toledo in 2008. Most recently, Sager served 2020 as the Tigers pitching coordinator.
In August 2020, Sager spoke to The Toledo Blade about the young Tigers pitchers making their way up to the majors.
"They are all progressing," Sager told The Blade. "They are the guys everyone is talking about. They will just continue to move along. I'm glad all of them are wearing Tigers' uniforms, I know that. I think they all have a chance to help us at the big-league club and have success up there. It's very exciting."
- Newark Advocate, Aug. 17, 1988: Sager changes sport, keeps young arm
- North County Times, April 11, 1994: Sager confident despite shelling
- Toledo Blade, Aug. 13, 2020: Sager likes progress of Tigers pitching prospects in Toledo
Made the Majors:1,219-34.9%-X
Never Made Majors:2,272-65.1%
5+ Seasons in the Majors:506-X
10+ Seasons in the Minors:299