Ryan Patterson was released by the Toronto Blue Jays organization after the 2008 baseball season and experienced the expected emotions.
Hurt. Disappointment. Anger. Sadness. But mostly regret.
"It was kind of a wake-up call for me," Patterson said. "I felt like I got lost in the game, that I was playing to everyone else's expectations and I kind of lost the factor of having fun."
Patterson, once a high-level prospect with Toronto, has rediscovered joy on the independent level, first with Fort Worth in 2009 and now with the Wingnuts. Wichita signed him after he was released by Detroit during spring training.
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The Wingnuts return to Lawrence-Dumont Stadium for a seven-game homestand and start a three-game series with Lincoln tonight. Patterson, a 27-year-old right fielder, is batting .234 with eight RBIs.
"What really helped me to rediscover it was sitting at home in April," Patterson said. "I've never done that. I've been playing baseball in April since I was 5 years old."
After hitting 50 home runs in three seasons at LSU, Patterson was a fourth-round draft pick of the Blue Jays in 2005.
Patterson quickly established his greatest strength as a professional — power. He hit 13 home runs in short-season Class-A ball in 2005 and 25 more in 2006, when he reached Double-A and also hit 39 doubles.
Entering 2007, he was rated the No. 4 prospect in the Blue Jays system by Baseball America.
"They were excited for me to keep moving up and putting up numbers and having a chance to move up fast," Patterson said. "I was in Double-A my first full season, so obviously they thought a lot of me.
"... I really felt like they were pushing for me and they were working with me and they were trying to help me make it to that next level."
That all changed, Patterson said, when a pitched ball broke his left wrist in 2007 spring training. Though he returned by the end of April and hit 18 home runs in Double-A that season, Patterson believed the once-high expectations of him began to dampen.
"It wasn't immediately," Patterson said. "After I broke my wrist I came back and had a solid year. But I could kind of feel the tide start turning because I started hearing whispers of, 'Oh, he doesn't quite have the power he had before.' And there were a lot of questions arising —'Is he going to get back to where he was before he got hurt?' "
Patterson was back in Double-A in 2008. Toronto's organization stresses plate discipline, and Patterson's low walk totals weren't in line with the Blue Jays' ideals. So Patterson was released, and he couldn't catch on in Detroit's organization, either.
Now Patterson is another former prospect playing independent baseball. It's the perfect place for him to re-examine his priorities.
"Just sitting at home, you realize how much you enjoy the game," Patterson said. "You realize how much you've turned into something else where you're sitting around worrying about all the wrong things and stressing about things you shouldn't stress about. I definitely got back to (having fun).
"The independent level is great because everyone is out here playing hard and playing for all the right reasons."