I prepared for this camp just as I had done a year ago for the Yankees.
Found a baseball teaching academy not far from home run by former major league infielder Jarrod Patterson. JP,39, is a good guy and gets a kick out of me as I am his oldest student by only about 45 years. He can tell some good stories about his brief stay in the big leagues.
He was drafted in 1993 by the Mets and bounced around the minors for eight years before getting his chance in ‘The Show.’ Ironically he spent part of 2000 right here in Pirate City as a Pittsburgh farm hand.
JP had a cup of coffee with Detroit in 2001 and a bag of popcorn with Kansas City in 2003 with 63 major league at-bats over the course of 26 games between the two stints. He hit .238 for his career with two home runs and four RBI’s. While he’s not headed for Cooperstown, he did get to live the dream.
We spent an hour together each session over four weeks throwing, catching ground balls and then getting into the batting cage. There is no question, based upon going into my first camp in 2010 with no training, that I’m better for the experience. He takes full credit for my 14 for 28 with the Yankees last year and fully expects to be thrown under the bus if things go south in this camp. No worries JP- I’m hanging in and that 335 shot yesterday was for you but it sure would make it easier to face pitchers my own age!
The highlight of my training session with JP would be the end when the next lesson on his schedule arrives. It’s an eight year old or maybe a 10 year old and to see the look on the dad’s face as I’m wrapping up. Priceless.
Then it finally happened. As I was finishing my final training session last Friday afternoon one of the dad’s said “mind if I ask you a question?” I knew this guy had to be thinking who am I and why on earth would I be doing this? “I’ve seen you here often,” he said. ” Are you an ex-pro that is looking to stay in shape?”
I was about to tell him “I’ll have whatever you’re drinking”‘ but instead I told him the truth.
“No. But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express.”
By Roy Berger for PeterGreenberg.com