It is strange how baseball works sometimes.
In his ninth season of professional baseball, Jarrod Patterson had to accept a demotion to put himself in a position for the biggest promotion of his career.
Prior to the 2001 season, Patterson had spent eight years in the minors playing for four organizations: the Mets, the Diamondbacks, the Pirates and the Expos. He even had a one-year stop with an independent league team in 1997.
After the 2000 season, Patterson signed as a minor-league free agent with the Tigers, and he began the 2001 season in the Class AAA International League with the Toledo Mud Hens. But he wasn’t a starter, and his offensive production suffered with his inconsistent play.
“Early in the season, I would pinch-hit, DH and play a utility role,” Patterson said in The Toledo Blade. “But it’s hard to get into a rhythm when you’re not playing every day.”
However, on May 15, Brant Ust, the third baseman at Class AA Erie, suffered an injury, and Patterson accepted the demotion to Erie so he could play every day in place of Ust.
“Things happen for a reason,” Patterson said in The Toledo Blade. “I decided to accept the assignment with a positive attitude, because you can go to the big leagues just as easily from Double-A as Triple-A.”
In 20 games with Erie, Patterson hit .400 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs, and he was recalled by the Mud Hens after starting third baseman Tom Evans was sold to the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese League.
In his return to Toledo, he hit three home runs with seven RBIs and batted .433 in just 30 at-bats.
“What he was doing down there, he brought up here,” Mud Hens manager Bruce Fields said in The Toledo Blade. “He wasn’t taking as many fastball strikes, and the pitches he’s been swinging at, he’s been putting into play with authority.”
So, the call to the majors finally happened, and Patterson was a 27-year-old rookie. He started 10 games in a row at third base and was 9-for-34 with two home runs and four RBIs. He hit his first major-league home run off Diamondbacks right-hander Curt Schilling in Arizona and singled off Roger Clemens of the Yankees the next night in his Comerica Park debut. Patterson added another solo shot six days later at Comerica Park against Twins right-hander Brad Radke.
It was a short-lived audition. Patterson stayed with the Tigers for a month, and in his final at-bat for Detroit, he delivered a pinch-hit triple off Matt Morris of the Cardinals. He returned to Toledo and became a free agent after the season.
Patterson signed with the Royals, but he did not get back to the majors until 2003, when he appeared in 13 games for Kansas City and hit .182 (4-for-22) with no home runs and no RBIs. He spent one more year in the minors and another in an independent league and finished with 1,277 games in the minors with 144 home runs, 811 RBIs, a .290 average and an OPS of .842.
After his playing days, Patterson stayed in baseball as a hitting coach and coach of a youth travel team.
Patterson was killed on March 11, 2020, in a two-car accident on I-65 in Clanton, Alabama. He was the second player from the 2001 Tigers team to die. He was preceded in death by former teammate Jose Lima. Ironically, Patterson’s final major-league home run came on the same day the Tigers re-acquired Lima in a trade with the Houston Astros.
Patterson was 46 at the time of his death. His celebration of life was held at a baseball field – Jack Hayes Field – in Clanton.
“D” Tales: Jarrod Patterson likely told his kids and his youth baseball players about the time he hit a home run off Curt Schilling on one day and singled off Roger Clemens the next day.
Both ace pitchers had excellent days when they faced Patterson.
Schilling, one his way to a career-high 22 wins in 2001, struck out 12 Tigers with no walks in eight innings as the Diamondbacks scored an 8-3 victory on a Sunday afternoon in Phoenix. Patterson had a double and home run off Schilling and added a single off Diamondbacks reliever Mike Mohler for the only three-hit game of his major-league career.
The next night, the Tigers returned home to face the Clemens and the New York Yankees at Comerica Park. Clemens was on the way to his sixth 20-win season, and he finished 20-3 in 2001. On that Monday night against the Tigers, he allowed one unearned run on seven hits in seven innings with seven strikeouts and three walks. Patterson had a single in his second at-bat against Clemens as the Yankees beat Detroit 10-1.
That fall, the Diamondbacks and Yankees faced off in the World Series, and Schilling shared the World Series MVP Award with Randy Johnson.