Jays Patterson swinging for the fences

Hulking first baseman doesn't let draft position dampen his enthusiasm

Kevin Patterson has embraced the role of mentor for younger minor leaguers. Photo: Ricky Bader
Kevin Patterson has embraced the role of mentor for younger minor leaguers. Photo: Ricky Bader (kevin-patterson)

DUNEDIN – It’s ironic that in today’s age of professional sports, college seniors often find themselves lowest on the totem pole for draft day.

Toronto Blue Jays prospect Kevin Patterson found himself victim to this reality, when despite an illustrious four-year career at Auburn University, he was drafted by the Jays in the 30th round of the 2011 draft – six rounds lower than where he was selected out of high school.

Nevertheless, the humble Patterson took it all in stride, just happy to be given the chance to play professionally.

“I wasn’t expecting to be a first round pick,” says Patterson, at the Bobby Mattick Training Center. “I just wanted an opportunity and the Blue Jays have definitely given me that. I couldn’t be happier.”

The 6-foot-4, 220 pound hulking first baseman could have many reasons to be upset about his draft stock.

After being selected out of high school in the 24th round of the 2007 draft, Patterson chose to pursue his education instead of playing pro immediately.

He hit 35 home runs during his four-year tenure at Auburn (good for eighth all-time in school history), blasting eight of those with 43 RBIs in his senior campaign. He also graduated with a degree in Economics.

In an era where young players are taken in the first round of the draft based on nothing more than potential, it seems unfair that such an established college star could slip so late in the draft, but Patterson has no regrets.

“Baseball’s all about being young, with that said I wouldn’t trade Auburn for anything. Great experience, got school behind me, and that’s a weight off my shoulders coming out here and pursuing my pro career.”

Since entering the Blue Jays farm system, Patterson has continued to demonstrate the type of size, strength and power that can translate to success at any level. In his first full season in 2012,

Patterson hit 19 home runs with 79 RBIs in only 108 games for the Lansing Lugnuts, Toronto’s Class A affiliate. Its no surprise that Patterson models his game after some of your typical swing-for-the-fences power hitters.

“Adam Dunn, or Travis Hafner in his day when he was younger and healthier. Guys like that, even a David Ortiz, I mean he’s legendary. They drive in runs, that’s what I’m trying to do,” says Patterson.

It’s fitting that one of the players Patterson likes to model himself after is Hafner, the former star first baseman for the Cleveland Indians.

While he was not a senior at the time he was drafted, Hafner only attended junior college, and was drafted all the way in the 31st round of the 1996 draft. 

It took him six years to reach the major leagues, but pretty soon he was a perennial 30 home run hitter and would likely still be one today if not for chronic injuries.

Patterson, recognizes that he has the chance to do the same with his physical gifts.

“My main attribute … I was blessed with size, strength and power, the ability to drive the ball, getting quality contact. Definitely, doubles, homers and RBI’s that’s what I’m here to do.”

A leader on the field, Patterson has also embraced the role of mentor one of the elder statesmen for the Lugnuts.

“I am a little older than some of the guys here. But that being said, I’m just trying to be an example and help some of the younger guys who got a lot more money than I did (he says with a hearty laugh) that were high round picks … couldn’t be happier for them.

“But having been through four years of college, just shedding a little light on things because baseball is very up and down.”

As a new season rolls around, Patterson is ready to continue swinging for the fences.

“Now its baseball all-day everyday. I mean some days are long, but at the end of the day in October, November when you’re just sitting at home you really miss it.

“You kind of embrace the grind, love the grind, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”