"It's what I want to do:" PNW's Patrick drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks
When Chad Patrick was a freshman at Hebron High School, he did the same thing every other ninth grader does.
He went into the his guidance counselor's office with his mom Jackie to have the standard conversation about what he wanted to do with his life.
"I said I wanted to play Major League Baseball," Patrick said.
His response was met with a hearty laugh, followed by the question, 'Do you have a back-up plan?'
"I told her, I don't really have one," Patrick said. "I said, I guess I'll be a garbageman. I was like, I'm going to make it. I was that kid once."
On Monday, that young teenager's self-confidence became a reality when the Purdue Northwest senior was selected in the fourth round with the 107th pick of the MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"It was just a long time coming," Patrick said. "People say you're not going to make it, you want to go out and prove them wrong. It's what I want to do. I want to go to work every day and it's not like work. When you love what you do, it makes the day go by better. I got what I wanted. I'm a Diamondback. It's awesome."
Valparaiso's Sam Samardzija of the Wasserman Agency noticed that swag in Patrick from the first time they met a few years back, when Patrick sought him out for some direction on his baseball career.
"That's the confidence he has," Samardzija said. "We represent Nolan Arenado, DJ LeMahieu, Tyler Glasnow, Jeff Samardzija. On down the line, they all have that same trait. He had a chance to be drafted last year in the fifth round, but it wasn't what he was looking for and he turned it down. It's rare to see a kid stick to that, to come back and make good on it, but that's who Chad Patrick is. He was willing to bet on himself. He's got that Midwest, blue-collar mentality to grind it out. He showed that you can come from anywhere, and if you're good enough, you have confidence in yourself and you're going to put the work in, they will find you. That's why I love baseball so much."
From the time he was in Hebron Little League, Patrick 'always wanted to be the one to get the guy out.' If the ball was hit to him, he'd run it to first base to make sure.
Patrick's love for the game is what sticks out with his high school coach, John Steinhilber, who had him in baseball and basketball at Hebron.
"He's always loved to compete," Steinhilber said. "That's contagious and I'm sure that carried on away from high school. He was always one of the best athletes on the field or in the gym. He played all the positions. He caught (cousin) Tyler's no-hitter. He could've pitched more as a freshman, but we brought him along a little slower. I'm just ecstatic to have coached him, to be the guy who put his name in the lineup. I think this is just the start for him. I think his ceiling is really high."
Steinhilber was following the draft online as he was eating lunch Monday when he heard Patrick's name and quickly took a picture. He'd texted Patrick in the morning, wishing him well and telling him to enjoy the day.
"It's surreal," Steinhilber said. "I don't even know how to say it. His family is all in. His dad always wears any jersey Chad has, so I've (teased) him about what if he gets picked by the Sox or the Cardinals."
At the Patrick house, there was a gathering of about 75 awaiting the announcement. A TV was hung in the garage, but Patrick's pick came online and his cousin Tucker was actually the first to notice it.
"He told me, you just got drafted by the Diamondbacks," Chad said. "I was like, are you serious? He showed me and I'm like, yeah dude, that's me. It was more jaw dropping, realizing this was the moment all my success was paying off. My mom was bawling, my girlfriend was bawling. It brought tears to my eyes a little bit."
Patrick had attended a Reds showcase in Cincinnati and a Padres draft workout in Fort Wayne recently. Kansas City, which was pursuing him last year, called him before the draft. Toward the end of the third round, he was called by the Pirates about his sign-ability and referred them to Samardzija. The Padres had also contacted Samardzija, but couldn't meet the numbers they were requesting. Though Arizona didn't reach out Monday, Patrick said Arizona regional scout Jeremy Kehrt told him the organization had been following him for two years and really liked him.
"Some teams just like to lay in the weeds sometimes," Samardzija said. "If he had been in the SEC or ACC, he would've been one of the top prospects. They viewed him as part of their future and this shows he has a bright future in baseball."
Samardzija likens Patrick to former Giants pitcher Matt Cain, a strong, workhorse type at 6-2, 205 pounds.
"He sits in the mid-90s, touches 96, 97, has a four-pitch mix, a power breaking ball and can throw his changeup for strikes," Samardzija said. "He's going to be one of those workload guys who will take the ball every fifth day, get outs and gives his team a chance to win. I think his trajectory is unlimited. The fun part is, whether you were taken in the first, fourth or 20th round, they're all in the same pot now. It's a marathon and this is the just the beginning, one part of the race. I'm excited to see what's next for him."
Patrick will fly out Thursday to Arizona, where he'll have to do a five-day quarantine, and Samardzija hopes he will be signed by the end of the week.
His first purchases? Definitely some dress clothes, maybe some fitted golf clubs or a car.
"I've got a lot of running around to do," Patrick said. "I've got to open a checking account. I'm anxious. I'm ready to get after it."
As for that guidance counselor story, Patrick encourages kids to chase their dreams, but admits it's a good idea to have a back-up plan, just in case. He has a year to go to finish his degree work and plans to take classes as he can in the fall and spring.
"It's a pretty inspirational thing," he said. "The message is it's all about hard work; every day, putting the time in, not losing concentration, focusing as you get closer a little at a time until you reach that ultimate goal."
Chad Patrick of Hebron and Purdue Northwest was taken in the fourth round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on Monday by the Arizona Diamondbacks. (Photo by Purdue Northwest Athletics)