You may have noticed that Troy Patton finally pitched on Wednesday in Boston, his first big-league outing in three years.
But this story is much more than just a comeback from an arm injury.
Patton, 25, pitched on Wednesday in front of his 34-year-old sister, whom he had never met before this week.
It’s an incredible story, and one that gets a major assist from the social media site, Facebook.
Patton’s father had been married previously. His ex-wife took their daughter, Heather, away when she was 4 and Patton’s father never saw her again. Before this week, that is.
According to Patton, his dad hired a private investigator in the past to find the girl, but the attempts to reunite were unsuccessful.
“I knew about her when I was younger, my dad has always talked about her. ‘Oh, it’s my daughter’s birthday today,’” Patton said. “It really hurt him every year because he tried to find her earlier, Technology wasn’t what it is now.”
Fast forward to this year. Patton’s dad, who lives in Houston and is remarried with four boys, including Troy, set up a Facebook account and entered “Heather Patton.” And there was a hit for a woman in Boston that matched the age. It was her.
On Wednesday, they watched Patton make his Orioles debut and his first big-league appearance since September 2007, when he was with the Houston Astros. Patton was traded that offseason to the Orioles in the Miguel Tejada deal and then missed all of 2008 after labrum surgery, spending nearly two full seasons in the minors.
He had been up with the Orioles three times this season, but didn’t pitch until Wednesday, when he faced four batters in the seventh, walking one, allowing a hit and recording two outs.
“I have another 2/3 of an inning in the big leagues, which isn’t much to most people, but it means a lot to me,” said Patton, who appeared in three games for the Astros in 2007. “Three years since I’ve done anything, so it means a lot to me.”
One of his outs was a strikeout of Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. And that had a little extra meaning, given the unusual reunion in the Fenway park stands.
“(Heather) knew who (Ortiz) was, too, which is good,” Patton laughed.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter knew of the story before Patton pitched Wednesday. He said he had wanted to get the lefty into a game, and that may have provided more motivation.
“I’d like to paint it that way, but if his sister hadn’t been there he probably would have pitched anyway,” Showalter said. “But it is something that I stepped back and (thought) about, and everybody in the dugout was really pulling for him to get a clean outing, so to speak. That was pretty cool.”
Patton said he has now “friended” his sister – whom he says has similar hair color and eyes and definitely possesses a family resemblance -- on Facebook. He expects to keep in touch with her and for her to meet the rest of his family.
“It’s kind of cool, too, because I got to meet her first,” Patton said. “Now, when everybody else meets her, me and her already kind of know each other. … She’s definitely part of the family now.”