A 23-year-old who was working as a landscaper 3 years ago describes the whirlwind journey from going viral in a pitching booth to signing an MLB contract
- Nathan Patterson is a 23-year-old who went viral for throwing 96 miles-per-hour at a pitching booth and later signed a contract to play in the minor leagues with the Oakland A's.
- Patterson has had a whirlwind journey, from playing high school baseball, working as a landscaper, moving to Nashville, Tennessee, getting noticed for his arm, then training to play professionally.
- Patterson credited the Twitter accounts Pitching Ninja and Flatground for getting him noticed and his goal is to now play in the major leagues.
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It's been a wild ride, particularly over the last three weeks, for Nathan Patterson, who has gone from viral sensation to a member of the Oakland A's.
During a rain delay at a Colorado Rockies game in July, Patterson, 23, entered a speed-pitching booth and threw a series of pitches, all above 90 miles per hour, topping out at 96 mph.Two days later, Patterson's brother posted the video to Twitter, where it went viral.
Weeks later, Patterson signed a contract with the Oakland A's to play in the minor leagues.
The journey, however, did not start in July.
"It's kind of been a whirlwind," Patterson said on MLB Network on Wednesday. "The misconception that I threw a ball into a gun two weeks ago and got signed, and people not realizing there was a lot of work and sacrifices that went into this."
From landscaping to training
Patterson played high school baseball in Kansas, but manned the infield and wasn't a pitcher. He didn't play after graduating. According to The Wall Street Journal's Jared Diamond, after two months in junior college, Patterson dropped out to work at his landscaping business in Overland Park, Kansas. During this time, he hit a growth spurt, going from 5-foot-8 to 6-foot-1.
Patterson eventually moved to Austin, Texas, in 2016, then to Nashville, Tennessee. Once in Nashville, Patterson began playing in a men's league (still in the infield, not as a pitcher) while he worked a sales job. In August 2018 -almost a year before being signed by the A's - Patterson went to a Nashville Sounds game (the A's Triple-A team) and stepped into a pitching booth, where he hit 96 miles per hour for the first time."I thought it was a joke," Patterson said, via The Journal. "I thought they jack up the gun to make you excited to pay another dollar to throw another ball."
Patterson told MLB Network on Wednesday that after throwing in the 90s at the pitching booth, he caught the eyes of a baseball coach, who told him to pursue a career in baseball.
Patterson eventually began throwing at a facility in Nashville, working on his arm. His momentum was briefly derailed when he got hit by a car in December and required surgery, he told MLB Network.
Patterson also credits Rob Friedman, who runs the popular Twitter accounts Pitching Ninja and Flatground. Pitching Ninja is an account that posts highlights of the best pitches in MLB, with insight into how they throw them.
Friedman - who was briefly suspended for posting unauthorized videos to Twitter and now works as an independent contractor with MLB, according to Diamond - began Flatground in January 2019. The account helps pitchers of all ages get noticed, particularly those who can't afford to go to college showcases, according to Diamond. Pitchers can submit videos of themselves, along with data on their pitches, their height, weight, and GPA, to get noticed at all levels.
Both Pitching Ninja and Flatground tweeted videos of Patterson, exposing him to a broader audience that includes college and professional coaches and scouts.
"Rob Friedman, Pitching Ninja, has been - I wouldn't be here without him. [He] helped me get exposure" Patterson said on MLB Network.
"I'm just really grateful and excited to be here," Patterson said on MLB Network. "My goal is to make it to the big leagues - that's priority No. 1. I believe with the right work ethic, things you can control - the work ethic, the attitude, the ability to learn not only from my coaches but also my teammates - it's not just an 'if', it's a matter of when it will happen."