Vaught's Views: Patterson makes his best pitch before UK baseball game
Former Kentucky basketball standout Patrick Patterson threw out the first pitch Friday in Houston before Kentucky's baseball team lost to Rice. "It was a huge honor for me to do this," he said. (Aaron M. Sprecher/UK Athletics)
That just made getting to throw out the first pitch before Kentucky lost 8-7 to No. 17 Rice on Friday night at the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park ever more special for Patrick Patterson.
“To be able to have free time like this and see a Kentucky baseball game is special for me,” Patterson said Friday after throwing out the first pitch in a UK baseball jersey given to him by the team. “It worked out perfect for me to do this. We had practice early and then had the rest of the evening free to get to see my college baseball team play here in Houston.”
Patterson had thrown out the first pitch at Minute Maid Park last season when the Astros hosted the Cincinnati Reds in August, after the Houston Rockets had made Patterson a first-round draft pick when he left Kentucky after his junior season to play in the NBA this year.
“I had done it for the Astros when I first got here, but it’s different doing it for Kentucky, my alma mater,” Patterson said. “This time was a lot more special. It means more because it was Kentucky and I got to watch them play.”
Patterson was a two-time all-Southeastern Conference selection, the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2008 and a preseason All-American before his final season. He finished his UK career with 1,564 points, 791 rebounds and 152 blocked shots.
He is averaging 4.6 points and three rebounds per game this season for the Rockets, with career highs of 20 points against Detroit on Feb. 22 and 10 rebounds twice against Toronto and Portland.
“Things are going pretty well. I am trying to work my way up the ladder and be even more productive,” Patterson said. “I just try to be energetic, enthusiastic and do what it takes to win. We’ve made a couple of moves and trades. We lost a great deal of leadership with Shane (Battier), but teammates are picking it up.
“It’s not like Kentucky, where if a person gets injured and then comes back you get your job back when you are healthy. The NBA is a business and is all about winning. Someone can take your spot any day at practice. You always have to be your best.”
Patterson continues to be at his best off the court, just like he was at Kentucky. He’s done community service work as outlined in his contract with speaking engagements, basketball clinics and hospital visits.
“I like going out in the community to see people just like I did at Kentucky,” he said. “Every NBA player is out there doing something. It’s all about how you carry yourself and how you interact with people and if you want to do more than you have to do to interact with people.”
Patterson had no trouble interacting with the UK baseball players.
“They welcomed me with open arms,” said Patterson, who hoped to obtain tickets for all the baseball players to see the Rockets play Saturday night. “It’s a mutual respect level. After I threw out the pitch, I asked them if they would sign the baseball for me and they all did.”
Patterson still is amazed by the feeling he had when he returned to Rupp Arena during the all-star break to watch the Kentucky basketball team play.
“I thought I would walk in all nonchalant and enjoy being with people that loved me. I didn’t think I would miss it that much but seeing guys wearing that Kentucky jersey I loved so much got to me,” Patterson said. “I kind of felt sad. That was kind of unexpected. I wasn’t expecting to want to be back out there so much.”
Now, though, Patterson is focused on trying to help the Rockets make a playoff push.
“We are one game under .500 and have 19 games left,” he said. “If we get on a roll we can move up a spot and make the playoffs, and that would be really nice.”