June 4, 2011
By Jon Cooper
Eric Patterson couldn’t help but be a Georgia Tech man. Look where he came from.
His father, Donald, played defensive back at Georgia Tech from 1976 through ’78 and was a team captain his senior year, his mother, Carolyn, is a Georgia Tech alumna (Class of ’81), and his older brother, Corey, committed to roam the outfield on The Flats, until the Chicago Cubs made him the third overall pick in the 1998 Amateur Draft — a decision difficult to argue with, as he is in his 12th Major League season, currently with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Eric, three years younger than Corey, followed in his brother’s shoes, first dominating at Harrison High School, where he helped the school to the 1998 Georgia AAAA State Championship, then committing to Georgia Tech. But here, the brothers’ paths diverged, as Eric chose to attend Georgia Tech, despite being drafted by the Colorado Rockies on the 23rd round of the 2001 Draft.
Patterson was a three-time All-ACC First-Teamer and an All-American in 2002. His forte was the stolen base as he became one of the most prolific base-stealers in the program’s history. He swiped 124 bases, three behind the school’s all-time leader Ty Griffin, with an 84.9 percent success rate, was the third Yellow Jacket to steal 40 bases in a season and is the only one with 40 in more than one season, nabbing 41 as a freshman and 48 as a junior, the second- and third-best seasons ever (Griffin’s 50 in 1986 are still the standard).
As a freshman, Patterson finished with a .346 average, a .458 slugging percentage, 90 hits, 14 doubles, 73 runs scored, 41 stolen bases and 119 total bases. He was a key piece to the puzzle of the 2002 Yellow Jackets, who reached the championship game of the ACC Tournament then earned a berth in the College World Series. He left Tech after his junior season, after being drafted by the Cubs (like brother, Corey, and Griffin) on the eighth round of the 2004 Draft.
Since then, it’s been something of a rollercoaster ride, as he’s been with the Cubs, Oakland A’s, Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres, and this past winter made news, as he was the player to be named later going from Boston to San Diego to complete the Sox’ blockbuster deal for Adrian Gonzalez.
While he’s struggled at the plate in 2011, hitting .175, Patterson’s versatility on defense, has made him a valuable part of the Padres, as he’s played all three outfield positions as well as second base.
Sting Daily recently caught up with him at Turner Field prior to Atlanta Braves-San Diego Padres series finale, and chatted with him about coming back to play at Turner Field, his memories of getting to the College World Series as a freshman and his advice for this year’s freshmen as they try to get there.
STING DAILY: How does it feel being back in Atlanta?
Eric Patterson: It’s nice. It’s the first time I’ve been able to come back and play in the big leagues here at Turner Field. Obviously, it’s with another team but Atlanta is still a special place for me. I still call it home during the off-season. So it’s definitely great to be back and see some family and get to sleep in your own bed.
SD: What are your memories of playing at Turner Field with the Yellow Jackets?
EP: We played there a couple of times with Tech against Georgia. I want to say we did twice and ended up splitting (Tech won in ’04 after losing in ’03). It always kind of leaves a bitter taste in your mouth losing to them. But I definitely keep up with the Georgia Tech Baseball Team all the time. I see they’re hosting a Regional and I wish them the best of luck.
SD: How closely do you follow them?
EP: Probably a couple of times a week, whenever I know they have games I check the box scores and just see how they’re doing. I talk with Coach Hall, maybe through texts a couple of times a year, and strength coach Steve Tamborra, talk to him a couple of times throughout the year, too, just kind of check in. But I definitely keep up with them and hope they do well.
I’m constantly on line checking out what they’re doing and seeing how they’re playing. So I definitely wish them the best of luck this weekend and hopefully they’ll get on to the Super Regionals and on to the College World Series.
SD: What are your memories of reaching the 2002 College World Series?
EP: It was crazy, man. It was my first year, my freshman year at Tech and just the whole experience, with being a freshman and kind of going through the college season for the first time, going through that whirlwind, it was definitely exciting, something I’ll definitely never forget.
SD: You certainly didn’t show any freshman jitters.
EP: (laughs) No. I was fortunate to have a pretty good freshman year at Tech. I think it had a lot to do with the coaching staff there and the teammates I had. They made it very easy to just go out and relax and play. When you’re able to do that, no matter what level you’re at, you usually have pretty good results. It was a great experience my freshman year. Not just that year, but all three years at Georgia Tech. I think we did some special things there. We had a good group of guys and those three years, I’d give anything to have them back. They were awesome.
SD: What is your advice for this year’s freshman class?
EP: Just keep working hard and enjoy the ride. Everyone has dreams and aspirations of playing big league baseball, but sometimes you kind of forget to live in the present and enjoy the college experience. Definitely go to class and get your work done but enjoy it. Enjoy the friends you make at Georgia Tech, with your teammates, and just take it a day at a time, enjoy it, work hard and the sky’s the limit.