The Round Rock Express have something that no other minor league baseball team has in its dugout right now. A possible Heisman Trophy contender.
To give him a taste of professional ball, the Rangers assigned him to Round Rock to work with the Triple-A club for the current home stand. He is wearing number 2, taking batting practice and other activities but not playing. Patterson will switch jerseys to the maize and blue and report to Ann Arbor on Thursday for the start of Wolverines camp.
The former Texan is a third baseman but hasn’t played since his junior year of high school.
“The Rangers sent me here to be around these guys, learn from the veterans and pick up anything I can,” Patterson said. “Oh, man, it’s a humbling and awesome experience. It’s remarkable to see how hard they work, how much they put into their craft.”
Patterson said Express hitting coach Howard Johnson quickly spotted flaws in his swing, which made an immediate difference.
“I started hitting some balls off the wall,” he said. “I’m going to try to get one out before I leave here.”
As a baseball player, he described himself as “athletic, quick hands, good feet, very coachable. I’m more of a line-drive hitter, but I got some power there.”
Baseball will have to wait. The Rangers took a flyer on him in the 39th round and signed him to a six-year contract that stipulates he’s all football during his two years of eligibility at Michigan.
Coach Jim Harbaugh gave Patterson his blessing to dabble in baseball.
“I’m happy for him and congratulated him,” Harbaugh told mlive.com. “I know he’s going to work out with the Triple-A team. It’s really cool. It made me start thinking about who are some of the best two-sport players the game has ever known?
“Dave DeBusschere, Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders. Dave Winfield, he was drafted in three sports, right?”
Patterson did not disclose to the American-Statesman how much money the Rangers are paying him, but he smiled and acknowledged, “It’s not in Kyler Murray territory.” The Oklahoma Sooners quarterback signed a $5 million deal with the Oakland A’s that allows Murray to play football this year.
Express veterans put the Toledo, Ohio, native through a hazing of sorts.
“Yeah, they played a joke on me when I walked into the clubhouse,” Patterson said. “I get to the locker, and there are about 40 Ohio State pictures, logos, memorabilia, stuff with Coach (Urban) Meyer, Brutus The Buckeye and all the rest. It was a very warm welcome. Actually, it was hilarious, and I had a good laugh out of that one.”
The family moved to Texas, and Patterson played as a freshman at Hidalgo High School, before making stops in Louisiana and Florida. He was the nation’s top QB recruit, according to 247Sports.
“Charlie Strong recruited me at Texas, but they had another quarterback in my class, Shane Buechele, who obviously has a baseball connection, too,” Patterson said of Buechele, whose dad Steve played for and coaches the Rangers. “I loved watching Colt McCoy and the Shipleys at Texas.”
Patterson, who completed 64 percent of his passes last year with 17 TDs and nine picks for Ole Miss, said his transfer was “a bit of last-minute thing” and that he chose Michigan over UCLA and LSU.
“Extending plays is my best attribute,” he said. “I watch a lot of film on Aaron Rodgers. His play-making ability is unreal.”
Patterson will be thrown into a stacked Big Ten East very much like the SEC West he is leaving. “Oh, yeah, they’re comparable,” he said.
Las Vegas already has made Patterson a top-12 Heisman favorite, with odds inside of 20-1.
“I’m aware of some of that, but it’s kinda crazy right now. Just hype,” he said. “If I throw just 10 touchdown passes all year and we win the national championship, I’ll be OK with that.”