Athletics

A's Nathan Patterson details incredible journey to professional baseball

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Nathan Patterson/Twitter

A's Nathan Patterson details incredible journey to professional baseball

By now, you've almost certainly seen the viral video of Nathan Patterson throwing 96 miles-per-hour in a Colorado Rockies speed-pitch challenge. But the A's newest prospect wants to clear a few things up.

"There's kind of a misconception that I threw a ball and got signed," Patterson said. "A misconception that there was no work or sacrifices that went into it, when in reality, there was a ton of work and a lot of sacrifices over the last year that's kind of gone into me being where I am today."

Where Patterson is today is a professional baseball player as a member of the Arizona League Athletics Green. The 23-year-old signed a minor-league contract with the A's last month.

Patterson may not have just thrown a ball and signed a contract, but his story is still remarkable. Born and raised in Overland Park, Kansas, he was an undersized middle infielder growing up and never got above junior varsity in high school. Prior to his senior year, he suffered an elbow injury, ending his baseball career. Or so he thought.

After high school, Patterson started a landscape business, literally mowing lawns in his hometown for a living. He would eventually move to Austin, Texas, where he worked in sales for a software company. At the beginning of last year, Patterson moved again, this time to Nashville with his girlfriend. That's where he discovered his arm talent.

At a Nashville Sounds minor-league game, Patterson decided to try the speed-pitch challenge. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound right-hander hadn't thrown a baseball in years, but he stretched out a little bit and let it fly. His first pitch clocked in at 90 mph.

"I was blown away," Patterson said. "I honestly thought it was a joke. I thought they just jacked up the gun to make you pay another dollar to throw another ball. I think I threw about five balls and the last one I threw was 96 mph. I blew my own mind, honestly."

That was enough for Patterson to pursue a career in baseball. He hired an agent and started working with former A's pitcher Jarrod Parker in Nashville, developing a curveball, slider, and changeup to go with his fastball.

Earlier this year, Patterson threw a pro day in front of a handful of major-league scouts, including the A's. They obviously liked what they saw. The famous Rockies speed-pitch video came a few months later, followed by a contract offer from Oakland.

"This is a little unexpected for us, to be honest," said A's Director of Scouting Eric Kubota. "When this process all started, we were just looking at it as, here's a kid who looks really good on video. He's got a fresh arm, even though he's 23 years old. What the heck? Let's take a chance."

Patterson has thrown a few bullpens since arriving in Arizona and the plan is for him to pitch in a game by the end of the week. Incredibly, he doesn't think he'll have any nerves.

"I've just lived for four years on my own, and so I think that helps me manage the anxiety or the pressure," Patterson said. "I look at it as what do I have to be anxious about? I'm here, I'm living my dream, I'm excited to be here. So I think it's more excitement than anxiety."

The A's actually have a similar outlook. From their standpoint, it's a low-risk, high-reward situation.

"I would say our expectations are that it's a roll of the dice, which it is with a lot of the guys we draft," Kubota said. "He's probably no different than many of the guys we draft. We're taking a chance on a body, arm action, and a delivery. What may be counted as negatives for him -- that he hasn't pitched since junior varsity -- you can look at it from the flip side and say, well that means he's got that many fewer innings on his arm."

After the initial shock and jubilation of signing a professional baseball contract, Patterson is starting to feel like he truly belongs. Now he's ready to fully make the transition from fan to pro athlete.

[RELATED: A's pitching prospect Jesus Luzardo opens up about recent lat strain]

"The first few days and weeks, it was just so surreal," he admitted. "But just talking with my dad, he was like, 'Nathan, this isn't surreal anymore. This is real. You are living this. You are an athlete. You are good, you are talented, you're athletic. Just live this. Enjoy it and absorb every single day. Be a sponge and learn from everybody.'

"It's definitely crazy to think about how I got here. But now I'm here. I'm an athlete. I'm a professional baseball player. Now it's time to make it to the big leagues. That's my number one priority."
 

2019 MLB Rule 5 Draft: A's lose Mark Payton, acquire minor leaguers

2019 MLB Rule 5 Draft: A's lose Mark Payton, acquire minor leaguers

As teams headed down south to the Winter Meetings in San Diego, the two main goals for the A's appeared to be finding a left-handed bat at the second base position as well as continuing conversations with relief pitchers.

While the team didn't make any huge acquisitions during the meetings, the Rule 5 Draft came and went as it does every year. With that, Oakland selected three players in the minor-league phase of the draft and had a couple more transactions as a result.

Second baseman Vimael Machin was acquired from the Phillies organization for cash considerations. He will be competing for a roster spot.

The 26-year-old slashed .295/.390/.412 with seven home runs and 65 RBI across the Double and Triple-A teams in the Chicago Cubs organization last season. 

Jason Krizan was selected from the Mets organization during the Triple-A phase. The 30-year-old outfielder hit .275 across two teams last season. 

The Athletic's prospect writer Emily Waldon says he's going to be a solid addition to the A's organization.

"His walk rate has always been impressive," Waldon told NBC Sports California. "He doesn't have a ton of swing and misses with some raw power with eight to ten home run seasons. He's also a dependable defender with a good veteran presence." Waldon also joked Krizan has "80-grade sarcasm."

The A's also selected catcher Jose Colina who put up some massive numbers with the Arizona League Indians Blue after signing with Cleveland as a minor league free agent in June. The 21-year-old slashed a .372/.443/.744 line with eight homers and 20 RBI.

Right-handed pitcher Deivy Mendez rounds the group out. In 25 appearances across Single-A and Short-A last season with the Padres organization, he went 2-1 with six saves and a 4.20 ERA striking out 33. 

[RELATED: A's interested in acquiring Lowrie for third time]

The Cincinnati Reds selected outfielder Mark Payton who was claimed off waivers by the A's in December of 2018. Payton was selected during the major league phase of the draft which, according to Waldon, has the A's losing some muscle at the plate. However, scouts reportedly didn't see the 28-year-old "doing a great deal outside of filling some needs." That power is what has gotten the most talk around Payton. 

Payton took advantage of the PCL last season with Triple-A Las Vegas and slashed .334/.400/.653 with 30 home runs and 97 RBI in 118 games. 

Why A's are focused more on keeping young stars than MLB free agency

Why A's are focused more on keeping young stars than MLB free agency

The AL West is moving and shaking early this MLB offseason, with players coming in and out of the division. 

Star third baseman Anthony Rendon reportedly agreed to a seven-year, $245 million contract to join the Angels. The Halos also traded for former top prospect Dylan Bundy to add to their rotation, and reportedly are pursuing longtime Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. The Astros, who have been the cream of the crop out west, lost pitcher Gerrit Cole to the Yankees, and Mariners general manager Jerry DiPoto is bound to make 47 trades by spring training. 

A's GM David Forst says he's more focused on his own squad than what his division foes are up to, but he certainly isn't mad about the Cole news. 

"I'm not sad to see Gerrit Cole leave our division is the best way to put it," Forst said to NBC Sports California in a 1-on-1 interview Wednesday. "We try not to get too wrapped up into what other teams are doing."

The A's came to the Winter Meetings in San Diego looking to upgrade their roster like every other team, however, they're much more focused on who they have in-house as opposed to the free-agent market this year. 

Oakland should receive a big boost to its starting rotation with the additions of Jesus Luzardo (22) and A.J. Puk (24) next season. The A's infield also is full of young talent, including budding stars Marcus Semien (29), Matt Chapman (26) and Matt Olson (25). Franklin Barreto (23), Jorge Mateo (24) and Sheldon Neuse (25) will compete for second base. 

"We've got a really good foundation and we're not heavily invested in free agency right now because we have those guys," Forst said. "We have young pitching, we have the position player group. So our focus has been on filling holes -- looking for a left-handed bat, something in the bullpen. We're fortunate enough to not have to be out there in free agency." 

Semien, who finished third in AL MVP voting last season after hitting 33 homers with an .892 OPS, is expected to earn nearly $14 million in arbitration this offseason and becomes a free agent after next season. The Bay Area native also has reiterated his hope to stay with the A's long term. 

Chapman and Olson both are arbitration-eligible after next season and are set to hit free agency once the 2023 season ends. 

"Certainly our hope is to keep all these guys together," Forst said. "You mentioned Marcus, who's going to be a free agent potentially after this year. That's something we'll address as the season goes along, and the rest of those guys, we're looking for ways to keep them in Oakland as long as possible."

The A's real goal when it comes to 2020 is avoiding the AL Wild Card Game after falling two years in a row in the winner-take-all contest. Forst and the rest of the front office is focused on giving Oakland its best chance at winning the division to get a better shot at the World Series. 

[RELATED: Beane opens up on A's-Semien negotiations, Astros scandal]

"You want to give your guys a chance to play in a series with a better chance to advance," Forst said. "To do that, you have to win the division. We've obviously stayed close to Houston the last couple of years, but as we put this team together, we're definitely looking towards a way to win the division, to get out of the wild card game and give our guys a better chance at a division series."

The A's will need another big season from the Semien, Chapman, Olson trio for that to happen, and they hope to keep them together well into the next decade.