May 28, 2007
By David Driver
Special to The Enterprise (Texas)
Used with permission
WASHINGTON - He comes from a small town in southeast Texas near the Louisiana border. But John Patterson, a former prep All-American at West Orange-Stark High School, feels right at home in the nation's capital.
"I couldn't imagine a better place for me, to be honest with you," said Patterson, a right-handed starting pitcher for the Washington Nationals. "I love it here. The community is great. I follow politics, so I really enjoy that. I have got to meet quite a few people I see on TV. I don't want to play anywhere else. This is where I want to play the rest of my career. It's a neat place for me. It's a good fit."
The 6-foot-6 Patterson certainly isn't the only Texan inside the Beltway. He knows the political climate will change when President George W. Bush leaves office early in 2009.
"It will be different. It has already changed a little bit when Congress got turned over" after the fall elections, said Patterson, 29, standing in front of his locker in the Washington clubhouse at RFK Stadium. "It is still fun. There is no place in the world like this. To be one of the (pro) sports teams in the capital of the world is really cool."
The only problem is, for now, Patterson is on the disabled list, as of May 6, with soreness in his right elbow.
Patterson was 1-5 with an ERA of 7.47 in seven starts for the Nationals before he went on the disabled list. In 31.1 innings he allowed 39 hits (including five homers) and 22 walks with 15 strikeouts.
Last year he was 1-2 with an ERA of 4.43 in eight starts for the Nationals, but nerve tissues in his right elbow forced him to miss most of the season. He began this season as the top starter for Washington, which was 14-26 prior to play on May 17.
"I don't have a time frame when I am going to be back. I started playing catch today," he said May 16 of his two sets of 25 tosses from about 75 feet in the outfield. "It had been about eight days since I had thrown last. It will depend on how that goes. I feel good. Everything is kind of up in the air, but I am definitely feeling better at this point."
"I just try to do as much as I can without being on the field," he added. "I get here early. I have physical therapy at 9 or 10 in the morning. I am here (in the clubhouse) by 1 p.m. I am sure I get all of my work in. I try to stay positive around the clubhouse and help guys anyway I can.
"I am probably a week or two from throwing off the mound."
But, when pressed, he still would not give a timeline for his return.
"I don't have one. I could throw one out there but it really doesn't mean anything," Patterson said. "When I feel good, when I feel 100 percent, I will be out there. Until then, I will continue to work and help cure the problem."
Patterson has had to sit and watch, but he has witnessed some surprising results by Washington's starting pitchers. Jason Bergmann, for instance, had a no-hitter late in the game at home on May 14 and won, 2-1, over Atlanta.
"It has been great, really. They are learning at an accelerated pace," Patterson said of the young staff. "They ask a lot of questions. They stay positive even when they have had some rough outings. I think the overall atmosphere of the whole team has been that way. If we start getting negative, it will just snowball and get out of control. The pitching staff has done a good job so far."
Patterson is one of several Washington starters, including Shawn Hill and Jerome Williams, who has gone on the DL already this season.
"It is baseball. You want to point your finger at things all the time. You are never going to figure it out," he said. "This is my 11th year in professional baseball, and you are never going to figure it out. Things are going to happen to you. Why have so many things happened at one time to us? I don't know. You are never going to be able to figure why things happen in baseball."
Patterson, from Orange, was the fifth overall pick in the 1996 draft out of West Orange-Stark High School, where he was 7-2 with an ERA of 0.77 in 72.1 innings, with 142 strikeouts.
He was named to the USA Today prep All-American squad. Patterson was taken in the draft by Montreal (now the Washington franchise), but signed with Arizona as a free agent after the Expos failed to extend an offer to him by the stated deadline.
Patterson entered 2007 with a lifetime Major League record of 17-20 with an ERA of 4.09 in 81 games, with 71 starts.
Off the field, Patterson is engaged to Shannon Schambeau, a former Miss D.C. The couple has set a date, but Patterson would not reveal it. The couple met during the last week of the 2005 season, the first for the Nationals in Washington after moving from Montreal, during a silent auction and team charity event.
"We have been together ever since," Patterson said.
They were engaged during spring training, prior to this season.
The Nationals also have big plans: they are scheduled to move into a new stadium just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol next season.
"The city is really excited about it," Patterson said. "There is a really good base on this team to build on. The money is going to be there for them to spend (on free agents). They are saying we are going to be one of the top teams (in terms of) revenue. It's a really, really huge opportunity for everybody in this clubhouse and the people who are not here yet. It is going to be really, really awesome."