There may be another movie on the horizon about the A’s unconventional way of uncovering talent, and this tale definitely is one for the digital age.
The A’s this week signed 23-year-old Nate Patterson to a minor league contract and assigned him to their rookie level team in the Arizona Fall League. The deal was completed days after the right-hander from Tennessee was observed firing a few 96 mph fastballs.
“How can you not be romantic about baseball” -Billy Beane
Words cannot describe this feeling and I cannot thank everyone enough who has been part of this journey so far! pic.twitter.com/E4eSMUDmU5
— Nathan Patterson (@npatterson_12) August 1, 2019
The twist is Patterson did it at a stadium speed pitch challenge. And the A’s weren’t even there.
They watched the tantalizing digits light up via social media. As of Friday night, more than 2 million people had seen the clip posted by his brother of Patterson pumping 96 mph heaters into the screen in the concourse of Coors Field during a Giants-Rockies game on July 15.
— Christian Patterson (@cpatterson_7) July 15, 2019
Just like “Moneyball,” which detailed how the A’s were at the forefront of the analytics movement, this tale almost certainly will make old-school scouts a little squeamish and front office types take note.
Patterson played baseball in high school, but only through his junior year. He told MLB.com, “I didn’t really have a good arm then.”
But in the subsequent years he got stronger and developed a golden arm.
He showed it off last summer at a speed pitch booth while attending a game at the A’s Triple-A affiliate in Nashville, also hitting 96 mph on the radar gun.
Patterson told MLB.com those results surprised him because he hadn’t thrown “for a few years before that.” Intrigued, he reached out to the A’s. Nearly a year later, the A’s were intrigued enough to offer him a contract.
Many of the details between speed pitch showcases remain unknown. But Patterson devoted a lot of time to building up his right arm — even after being involved in a car accident that broke his left wrist. He reportedly worked out with former A’s pitcher Jarrod Parker at the Nashville-based Parker Sports Performance center, and Patterson pitched some in a local adult baseball league.
The only comments from the A’s came from director of baseball communications Fernando Alcala, who said in a release that the organization had “been monitoring his progress since January” and asked that the media hold off on contacting Patterson until he was settled in as a new Athletic.
But barely 24 hours into his professional career, Patterson was a full-blown social media sensation.
Patterson tweeted on Friday, “Just to be clear…my number one priority right now is to develop and perform for the @Athletics organization and get to the big leagues. The stories have been incredible and I hope to inspire others. I have been given an incredible opportunity. Go A’s!”
Patterson’s speed gun showcase at Coors Field captured the attention of his new employers and millions of viewers. At least some of Patterson’s digital media visibility can be credited to Rob Friedman, the mastermind behind the wildly popular Pitching Ninja posts on Twitter and Instagram.
Friedman has been growing a loyal following by posting GIFs and videos of unhittable pitches thrown by some of the best in the game. Big league pitchers are some of his biggest supporters, and the videos were intended to serve as educational tools about mechanics as well as entertainment.
But recently Friedman expanded his scope, using his platforms to showcase unheralded players or late bloomers such as Patterson. Among his advice to followers is “tweet your videos. It’s free. We’re blowing up the traditional barriers to recruiting & scouting exposure.”
2019 Draft Eligable
— Nathan Patterson (@npatterson_12) January 20, 2019
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 2, 2019
You can bet the rest of MLB — and probably Hollywood — will be keeping an eye on how this tale turns out.
“This story is not over,” Patterson tweeted. “It is not the beginning. I am writing the next chapters and excited for this journey!”