If you are a die-hard baseball fan, the name Henry Rowengartner should mean something to you. He’s the underdog Little Leaguer who breaks his arm, somehow throws straight gas because of it, becomes a publicity stunt, and eventually helps the Chicago Cubs win the NL Pennant. Yes, Rookie of the Year was a classic baseball movie, and it appears we have a real-life version of it.
Everyone, meet Nathan Patterson. He hadn’t played much of America’s Pastime since his glory days of high school baseball in Kansas, but the 23-year-old right-hander signed a Major League Baseball contract with the Oakland Athletics last year.
Wait, what? How? This doesn’t seem possible. Well, when you go to a MLB game and you hit 96 MPH on the stadium radar gun, these things happen.
Nathan Patterson’s Speed Pitch Challenge
It all happened at a Colorado Rockies game in July 2019 when Patterson took on the speed pitch challenge and threw fastballs better than most of the players at Coors Field that day. His brother, Christian, filmed it all, posted it to social media, and the rest is history.
About two weeks later, Patterson signed a contract with the A’s while in Mesa, Arizona. According to MLB.com, this whole thing started at a Nashville Sounds baseball game the year before, when he clocked a 96 MPH fastball in the radar booth, and began training.
He even talked to the A’s prior to spring training earlier last year, but the viral video really set it in motion. He wrote a message on his Instagram account, which has since been made private.
“Words cannot describe this feeling and I cannot thank everyone enough who has been part of this journey so far! My family has given me nothing but constant love and support throughout the last 9 months as I pursue a dream of mine that I’ve had since I was a little kid. It’s been a roller coaster to get here with many challenges and overcoming adversity,
“I’m grateful for all the trainers, coaches, friends, [RSR Baseball] and everyone else who has supported me thus far! And for those who tell you that can’t achieve your dreams, use that as fuel to work even harder. Because those people are the ones that settle. I’m grateful for the [Athletics] organization for giving me this opportunity!
“The story is not over. It is not the beginning. I am writing the next chapters and excited for this journey! Time to focus even more, work even harder, and it all starts with your mindset. Go after your dreams and make them a reality!”
— Nathan Patterson
Before his Instagram message, he quoted Billy Beane, the old Oakland A’s general manager responsible for sparking the use of analytics to sign the most cost-effective baseball players for his team.
Was it a publicity stunt like Rowengartner or the purest Moneyball move of the century? It was something in-between.
Patterson started his own landscaping business in Kansas City after high school. He then moved to Austin, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee before his right arm cannon was discovered. Playing Minor League Baseball seemed like only a dream, but it became a reality.
According to USA Today, Patterson struck out the side in his professional baseball debut in the Arizona League, gave up three runs in two innings in his second appearance, and then hurled nearly three innings of scoreless baseball in his third.
The coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19 outbreak spoiled his minor league contract and slowed up his plans of recording strikeouts as an MLB player in the Oakland Athletics organization, but there’s no doubt that summer day at the ballpark changed his life.
This post was originally published on August 2, 2019 before updating.