Patterson brings veteran experience to the hometown team
Monday, 22 April 2013 23:53
Junior Jordan Patterson has quickly become the face of South Alabama baseball during his time as a Jaguar, and it’s easy to see why.
Patterson leads the Jags in batting average, runs scored, hits, doubles, walks, hit by pitch, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, games played and games started this season. It’s hard to imagine not seeing the Mobile native on the field for the Jags, but it was almost a reality.
“It’s kind of a funny story,” Patterson said. “I played three sports in high school, and during basketball season I committed to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. I was dead set on going there; they were going to let me hit and pitch. Then Calvi got the job here. It was a Monday, and I was supposed to go to my JUCO on Wednesday. Calvi watched me throw a bullpen in the rain and he offered me that day. I told him I wanted to hit and I committed on Tuesday. I ended up going to orientation that week and starting at South that next Monday.”
Being able to play in his hometown was also a big selling point for Patterson.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “The atmosphere, I’m kind of the hometown guy so that makes it much better, my parents can come see me play. Just the coaching staff, the community, the team is just awesome. It’s a real blessing to be here to play.”
That sense of being at home has helped carry Patterson to his achievements on the field, but as he found this past summer, that’s not always going to be the case.
Patterson played summer league ball in the prestigious Cape Cod League, one of the premiere summer leagues in college baseball. It was there that Patterson discovered some of the growing pains that come with playing in such a competitive league.
“It taught me a lot mentally,” Patterson said. “You know, you go up there and I’m not the best player there. It’s the cream of crop, and the cream is going to rise to the top. Your mom’s not there, your coaches aren’t there. You’ve got no one, it’s you by yourself. I started off pretty slow, and I had to teach myself how to grow up, and mentally I grew up as a player.”
Patterson is one of the few players remaining on the Jags to have played under South Alabama legend Steve Kittrell, who coached the Jags to a school record 1,022 wins during his career. Patterson was only a freshman when Kittrell retired, but as he points out he was able to pass some of his knowledge of the game on to the young ballplayer.
“Kitrell was an awesome mentor,” Patterson said. “He knew so much of the game; he had been in it so long. It was awesome being able to learn the game from him. He taught you the small things. He taught you how to play the game of baseball. It was awesome. Coach Calvi, words can’t explain how awesome he is. He treats me like a son. He’s real personable. He’s a player’s coach. Not one person on the team would say a negative thing about him. He brings it every day. He never has a bad attitude to any of the players. He’s just awesome to play for.”
With three weeks still remaining in the season, the Jags have already surpassed their win total from last year, turning around one of the worst seasons in South Alabama history into a season that could see the Jags make a deep postseason run.
“Last year, we had all those JUCO guys coming in and everything was new,” Patterson said. “The coaching staff was new, the players were new. But we’ve bonded as a team and the chemistry, you can’t explain it. If someone doesn’t do it, someone else will pick it up, and that’s every game. Last year, if we got down, we might lose it. But this year, it’s like ‘Whatever, we’re going to get it.’ If we’re down, we’re going to come back and win it. There’s belief in everybody on the team.”
Patterson also expressed confidence that the Jags are just as competitive as some the best teams in the nation.
“I think we can play with anybody in the country,” he said. “Playing Florida State and Mississippi State, there wasn’t a difference. We have to play like they don’t have anything on their chest, like they’re someone else in the Sun Belt. And when we allow ourselves to play and not get caught up in everything, we’re going to be pretty good.”
Patterson’s time at South will come to an end after next season, and when asked to look back on his career so far, Jordan remembered a game from his freshman year when he made a big statement.
“My freshman year I hit a three-run shot against Alabama at home,” Patterson said. “That was pretty awesome. I enjoy coming out here. It’s an awesome experience to be a part of this program.”
That home run would give South an 8-6 advantage in the eighth inning. The Jags would win 10-9.
Like most baseball players, Patterson hopes to play in the majors someday after his college career ends.
“Well, hopefully get picked up by somebody,” Patterson said. “But if I don’t get the opportunity to do that, I’m majoring in secondary education history, and I plan to be a teacher and a coach.”