A change in pitching style is working out well for former McKinleyville and College of the Redwoods player Ryan Patrick, who is fast making a name for himself as a knuckleballer in the minor leagues.
The Humboldt native, who graduated Mack in 2012, is coming off a second season in the pro ranks, most recently impressing for the Salina Stockdale in Kansas.
“I love it,” said Patrick, who is back in Humboldt for a visit this week after recently finishing up the season. “It’s a grind, but you know what, the grind is a privilege. A lot of people would love to chase this dream.”
The opportunity to chase that dream may not have worked out but for a big switch he made after graduating from CR in 2015 and transferring to play for the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota.
The fateful decision to switch to a knuckleballer changed everything for the former Panthers star.
“I figured I’d never get my fastball up to 90, so I had to make adjustments in order to continue my career,” he said. “So I switched to the knuckleball, and it opened up a lot of doors for me personally.”
Since graduating Sioux Falls in 2017, Patrick has spent back-to-back summers playing for various teams in the independent baseball leagues.
And he has been establishing a name for himself as he continues to develop his knuckleball, a very unique pitch that is thrown to minimize the spin of the ball in flight, causing an erratic, unpredictable motion.
This summer, while pitching for the Trinidad Triggers in Colorado, he was named to one of the all-star teams in the Pecos League of Professional Baseball, which Patrick described as low single-A rookie ball.
He pitched one inning in relief during the all-star game, retiring three straight batters.
His success has not gone unnoticed.
Late in the summer, Patrick was called up to the Stockdale, a step up in competition, after posting an ERA of just 0.75 in 20 innings with the Triggers.
The 25-year-old hopes to continue to climb the ranks as he continues to work on his knuckleball, and is confident he can get a call up to an American Association of Baseball team in the spring.
“I’m trying to get in with an affiliated organization and make it all the way to a big club,” Patrick said.
Drop in ERA
For now, that means continuing to work on his craft.
Earlier this year, Patrick made the trip to New York to work with famed knuckleballer Joe Gannon, who spent three years with the Baltimore Orioles.
“I was able to go out there and learn a few things,” said Patrick, who says he’ll be heading back out to work with Gannon again this offseason. “I learned some different mechanics, what works and what doesn’t work.”
He says the trip resulted in a notable drop in his ERA.
Patrick is the only current professional baseball player from Humboldt County.
He says his time playing for former coach Dustin Dutra at Mack High helped prepare him for his college and pro careers, especially with the competition he faced for innings while playing for the Panthers.
Patrick also played two summers with the Humboldt B52s, where teammates Zack Smith and Kenton Johnson put him in touch with Sioux Falls, where each had played their college ball.
“That was a great experience for me,” Patrick said of his time with the B52s. “And that opened the door for me for Sioux Falls.”
Ray Hamill writes at humboldtsports.com, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.