FORT WAYNE – The question would always come at dinner time in the Patten household, and Norwell junior Jonah Patten always wanted to be ready with the right answer.
My father Jim would ask me Did you work harder than every kid in the nation today? Patten said. And I always want to answer – yes.
And after dinner, Patten, his father and his older brother, Noah, would go outside and do something about it, hitting grounders on the road or playing catch until there wasnt enough light to see the ball.
What it did for my young career is show me to have passion, work ethic and be competitive, Patten said. From an early age my dad always had a bat and ball in my hands. There isnt a memory in my childhood where baseball wasnt involved in some way. I just have an amazing passion for the game.
That effort and enthusiasm earned Patten a future baseball scholarship to Arkansas as a standout pitcher for the Class 3A No. 2 Knights (25-3).
Just talking with him one-on-one about baseball, I was just impressed what he knew about the game and how he carried himself in that manner, first-year Norwell baseball coach Andy McClain said upon meeting Patten for the first time. When you put a ball in his right hand, then he really gets your attention.
He has an understanding of pitching and playing the game, to go along with a God-gifted right arm.
Patten is 3-0 this season after being suspended for half the season because of disciplinary reasons. McClain said Patten is rounding into form at the right time with sectionals starting today and was recently invited to the Junior Showcase, which runs in conjunction with the North-South All-Star series.
Up until the last few games, I would have said his command and location, McClain said of any weaknesses. But he has come into form and been lights out in that regard.
Playing shortstop helps his overall athleticism, too. He can throw hard and teams maybe try to bunt and steal bases, so he still needs to work on fielding his position, holding runners and overall polish. Not that he is bad at those things, but teams will try to beat him any way they can. He is smart enough to know those are things he needs to work on and will.
Patten has seen the changes in his game. Recently in a 1-hit, 10-strikeout performance against Crown Point, Patten was told by a Major League Baseball scout that his fastball topped out at 96 mph.
The biggest thing is self-confidence, he said of his development. I now understand the true gift that Ive been blessed to have, and I have started to really grasp it these past couple years.
Im calmer on the mound, and I have a plan for every hitter and I stick to that 100 percent. Ive started to attack hitters and keep my pitch count low.
And the final thing is trusting my off-speed. It is extremely important to have a plus off-speed pitch to compliment my mid-90s (mph) fastball; thats the one area I will continue to approve upon this spring, summer and fall.