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Remembering 2013: Eric Patterson profile

The dreaded off-season has arrived.  But fear not, despite news being a little slower this time of year, we have plenty of content to keep you occupied here at BlogToBlogChamps.  Each Monday, we’ll publish a feature from the 2013 York Revolutionary Times, the official game day magazine of the York Revolution for you to re-enjoy, or read for the first time in case you missed it at the ballpark.  This week, re-visit the career of outfielder Eric Patterson, who began last season in York but ended it in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.  Previously, Patterson had played in the Majors for the Cubs, A’s, Red Sox and Padres, following in the footsteps of his older brother Corey, a 12-year MLB veteran. 

Patterson, Eric 4

By Ron Gardner

If you’re the parent of a budding Little League baseball star spending your evenings hauling your lawn chair from one sandlot to the next, you should know that the odds of your little slugger growing up to play in the big leagues one day is something like 1 in 1,000.  Maybe even worse, depending on whose math you believe…but most definitely not a solid career plan.

That being said, the odds against two brothers both making it to the majors must be absolutely staggering, right?  Of course, but not impossible – look no further than the Revs Eric Patterson and his older brother, Corey, for proof of that.

The sons of a former NFL football player (Don Patterson), Eric is three years younger than older brother Corey, who was selected by the Chicago Cubs as the third overall pick in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft.  By Eric’s senior year at Harrison High School in Kennesaw, GA, Corey had already made his big-league debut as a precocious 21-year-old outfielder with Cubs, launching a 12-year major league career that would include stints with the Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays and winning a World Series title in 2011 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

What Eric drew from his relationship growing up with Corey was much more than simple motivation born of an intense sibling rivalry.

“Obviously he was naturally talented,” Eric said of Corey.  “Just growing up, watching all the hard work and stuff he put in.  I can remember in high school, he would go to two-a-day football practice and still find time to play summer league baseball and go to the cage and do whatever he needed to do baseball-wise.

“For me, just from that standpoint, having an older brother, seeing all the hard work and the time that he put in to get to the big leagues, it kind of helped influence me as far as wanting to put in the same effort and do the same things to get there.  Talent is definitely a big part, but hard work is definitely also a big part as well.”

Eric’s own hard work and talents culminated in his being picked by the Colorado Rockies in the 23rd round of the 2001 draft, but Eric elected not to sign with the Rockies in favor of attending Georgia Tech on a baseball scholarship.  In each of his three years starring at second base and leading off for the Yellow Jackets, Eric was named to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference team and in 2004, he was drafted by the Cubs in the eighth round.

Having your older brother playing in Chicago as the everyday centerfielder might have helped a little with name recognition too.

“I don’t know – it definitely didn’t hurt,” Eric said.  “The scouting director at the time when Corey was going through it (Jim Hendry) was the GM at the time I got drafted.  It definitely didn’t hurt, but at the same time, I had a lot of interest from a lot of other teams as well.  It just kind of happened to work out where the eighth round came around and the Cubs had a pick and they wanted to use it on me.

“It was definitely exciting for me and my family to have the possibility to be in the same organization with Corey and possibly play with him one day.”

Unfortunately, the dreams of the two Patterson brothers playing together at Wrigley Field in Cubs uniforms were short-lived.  Following the 2005 season, in which Eric hit .333 at Single-A Peoria to win the Midwest League batting title and earn the Cubs’ Minor League Player of the Year honors, Corey was traded away to the Orioles.

The following year, Eric would appear as one of baseball’s top young prospects in the MLB Futures Games in Pittsburgh, working his way up to finish the season with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in just his second year as a professional.  Then midway through the 2007 season, en route to earning Pacific Coast League All-Star honors with Iowa, Patterson was approached by his manager and asked how he would feel about learning to play in the outfield after years exclusively at second base.

“I’m not going to lie, I did kind of fight it at first,” Patterson said.  “I did want to stay at second base.  (But) in the long run, it did nothing but help me as far as my career.”

Sure enough, just about two weeks after making the switch to the outfield, Patterson made his big-league debut on August 6 for Chicago after outfielder Alfonzo Soriano was injured.

“I remember the phone call like it was yesterday,” Patterson said.  “We had just gotten done playing a game in Iowa and I was laying on the floor and my roommate was laying on the couch, we were actually watching the Cubs game and Soriano got hurt and I was half-awake, half-asleep.  I don’t think I saw the end of the game – I fell asleep.  I heard my phone ringing and it was our manager saying they’ve had an injury – you’re going to the big leagues tomorrow.”

Over the next five seasons, Patterson would go on to play in a total of 226 major league games with the Cubs (2007-08), Oakland A’s (2008-10), Boston Red Sox (2010) and San Diego Padres (2011), batting .217 with 10 home runs and 50 RBI.  Being accustomed to success as a hitter (a career .294 batting average in the minors), not coming through at the plate was a huge disappointment for Eric.

“My struggles in the big leagues was more that I was used to playing every day in the minor leagues,” Patterson said.  “Then I got to the big leagues and it was one of those things that I was in the utility role and I’d get a spot start here or there.  So trying to find a routine to get that consistency, I never really found it.”

Patterson spent all of the 2012 season playing for the Toledo Mud Hens (the Detroit Tigers Triple-A affiliate) and found himself without any job offers from a big-league organization come this spring training.

Attracted by his ability to play both infield and outfield positions and strong career offensive production, Revolution manager Mark Mason felt Patterson was a great fit for the team and vice versa.

“First of all, he had good numbers and he was versatile and I thought those were the two most important things for us and for him,” Mason said.  “The versatility would give him a chance to show what he can do and would make him more valuable to organizations and would make him more valuable to us.  I thought it would give him a good opportunity to show what he can do and give him a good possibility of getting signed again.”

Through 49 games played, hitting mostly from the leadoff position for York, Patterson was batting .272 with 11 home runs and 32 RBI.  He was named Atlantic League Player of the Week (June 3-9) after hitting .458 with four home runs and 12 RBI in six games.  For the most part, Patterson says he’s happy with his play thus far, knowing all too well that he needs to show big-league clubs that he can still contribute.

“Personally, I think it’s gone well,” Patterson said.  “Batting average isn’t quite probably where I want it to be (and) strike-outs are probably a little higher than where I wanted to be.  But all in all, it’s been good.  For the most part, I’m having good AB’s – hitting the ball hard.  Defensively, I think I’ve gotten better, both infield and outfield.  I’m having fun – I’m enjoying it.

“That was the biggest thing for me – just coming out and enjoying the game.  I don’t know how much longer I’m going to play or what have you. I just wanted to come out, enjoy it and showcase what I can do.”

It would also be pretty cool to get that opportunity to play professionally on the same team with his older brother.  Hey, it could still happen.  Corey is still playing professionally this season, albeit in the minors, hoping to work his way back to the big leagues.  When the Seattle Mariners released Corey on June 6 after hitting just .175 in 19 games at Triple-A Tacoma, Eric took a shot at trying to get his older brother to come to York to play for the Revs.

“I just kind of threw it out there,” Eric said.  “He ended up signing with the Yankees (on June 21 and is now playing at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre).  Obviously it was a good fit and something he felt good about and he decided to pursue that.  But I kind of threw it out there at the time.  We were short on guys.  I think for him, his focus at that time, was I’m just going to try to ride it out and see what happens.  But I’m always chirping at him, trying to get him to come here.

“Any time you have two brothers or two siblings that are doing the same thing, you’d obviously love to play together, work together.  It hasn’t worked out so far, but who’s to say it might not work out in the future.”

Wonder what the odds are on that?

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