Love Letters From Pronk is an ongoing series where Pronk shares his love for somebody connected to the Cubs. Sometimes funny, sometimes weird, Pronk likes to make 100% sure people know that they are loved, and best expresses that through gushing letters. Today's pick: Cubs former top prospect outfielder Corey Patterson
Corey Patterson was one of those guys I so badly wanted to see a long career full off success. The Cubs minor league system had trouble turning top draft picks into good major league players for many years. One of those guys was Patterson. He came up at just 20 years old, and played two partial seasons before becoming full time in 2002. In 2003, he started to put it together. He had a solid first half, and was on pace for nearly 30 home runs. Then he tragically tore his ACL on a freak accident while running out a hit, and was never quite the same since. He had a few decent years, but never quite reached his ceiling. It was so frustrating, because he really seemed like a nice guy who worked so hard. I really think he could have been an annual All Star if he didn't get derailed.
I really enjoyed watching you play. Your combination of speed and power was electrifying to watch, and helped carry me through some tough Cubs seasons. If I could go back in time to prevent that ACL injury, I totally would, because I know you were on the cusp of greatness. Watching that happen live provided a tough lesson for a kid, and helped me grow up.
I do have one very specific quirky story i'd like to share with you-
Every year for my birthday, I'd get to go to a Cubs game. On 9/24/2000, we got tickets to a Sunday afternoon game against the Cardinals. I was looking forward to a Sosa/McGwire matchup, but both guys were out of the lineup. Bummer. The Cubs did win 10-5, which helped make up for it.
In the 7th inning, a play happened that has since become a part of my personality. With 2 outs, you hit a liner to right field, an easy double. But then the ball kicked around under the padding, and JD Drew had trouble picking it up. With your blazing speed, you just kept going and going around the bases. My eyes kept darting from Drew fumbling around in right to you screaming around the diamond. As you got to third, my Dad and I had this moment of mind melding where we both screamed out "Throw the Ball JD! Throw it!" JD eventually did throw the ball in, but by the time it hit the cut off man, you had already scored. I'll never forget that moment.
My dad and I turned to each other and laughed. What were the odds that we'd say the same exact thing at the exact same time? From that day on, the catchphrase "THROW THE BALL JD!" became a part of my vocabulary. Whenever I see an outfielder fumbling a baseball and the hitter taking extra bags, I instinctively, in a mocking high pitched tone, will call out "Throw it! Throw the ball JD! Just throw it!" 20 years later, and I still use that catch phrase. It will happen in public and people will look at me in confusion, and I just laugh to myself and tell them they had to be there.
Another reason I loved this specific play was because it was a similar to what I could do in little league. I was faster than anyone else on the diamond, and I could routinely force errors by making large turns around bases. I would take extra bases all day long, because I had the awareness and aggressiveness to make it work. If you can put the pressure on somebody, you can make them crack. And I cracked a ton of little league and later church softball league outfielders.
Thank you for contributing to one of my favorite baseball memories.