When Jim Rhoads learned that his valuable 6-foot-7 frontcourt reserve Tarence Clark had moved to New Orleans last fall, the Hereford basketball coach immediately began recruiting Jay Patti to join the team.
Patti had played only one season of basketball — on the junior varsity as a sophomore — in his three years at the school.
But Rhoads was convinced that the 2013 North County News male athlete of the year could be a solid replacement for Clark.
"You want to have as many good athletes on your team as you can, and he is a really good athlete," Rhoads explained. "He is fast, very tough and he can jump."
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior brought those skills and a rugged style to the court. He also punted, kicked, worked as backup quarterback and started at free safety for the football team, and earned first-team All-County honors as a shortstop on the baseball team.
"He has a chance to play at the major league level because his work ethic is unbelievable," Hereford baseball coach Todd Hartshorn said of Patti, who co-captained the baseball and football teams as a senior while carrying a 3.7 grade-point average. "Professional scouts have said to me, 'This kid is just a pure hitter.' His swing is fantastic."
Patti's best sport is baseball. He will play at Division III Randolph-Macon College in Virginia next season.
Patti helped lead the Bulls to a 13-6 record, batting third in the lineup . He led the Bulls in on-base percentage (.510), walks (18), triples (3) and home runs (2) and ranked second in RBIs (17) and runs scored (20) while batting .374.
In addition, he earned a spot for the second consecutive year on Team Maryland, which will compete in the Hartland Classic in Oklahoma from June 17-23.
Patti also was named MVP of the North squad in 32nd annual Brooks Robinson All-Star Game at Camden Yards on June 4 that finished in a 3-3 tie. That team included the Orioles' sixth-round draft pick, Calvert Hall's Alex Murphy, and other players from the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champion Cardinals, Loyola Blakefield and Gilman.
"He was 2-for-2 with two singles that almost killed the pitcher," Hartshorn said.
These accomplishments came after a junior year in which local coaches voted Patti as the Baltimore County Player of the Year for hitting .557 with eight doubles, three triples, 23 RBIs and 28 runs scored.
Teams avoided pitching to Patti whenever possible this spring, and his extra base hits declined because outfielders played near the warning track to take them away.
"I walked more than I ever walked this year," said Patti who played a combined seven years in the Seventh District rec program before joining the junior varsity as a freshman. "I wasn't getting many fastballs. I was seeing a lot of curveballs and off-speed pitches. I really had to work the count and get my pitch."
The two year-starter was strong in the field as well.
"He is not the flashiest kid," Hartshorn said. "He just made the plays and got the job done."
In football, Patti was known as a hard-hitting safety who totaled 35 tackles, finished second in interceptions (2) and third in pass-breakups (7) last fall.
"He loved to come down into the (tackle) box and tackle," Hereford defensive coordinator Thomas Hanson said. "He was just good at doing what a free safety does, which is finding the ball and being in the right position."
Patti was the most versatile Bull, playing four different positions.
He qualified for the Baltimore all-star squad that defeated Washington, 28-7, in the fifth annual Crab Bowl in December and Rivals.com chose him as a third-team all-state placekicker because of his deep kickoffs and accuracy on extra points.
Patti, who kicked and punted in the Hereford rec program for several years, converted 50 of 53 extra points last season, had 20 touchbacks and averaged 36.4 yards per punt.
In basketball, the power forward loved to energize his teammates. He started four games, mainly as a defensive forward.
"I came off the bench most of the time as the sixth man," he said. Patti's best game of the season was in a 68-58 loss to Carlisle, of Pennsylvania, in mid-January.
"They had like a 6-7, 225-pound center," Rhoads said. "He was very, very good. Jay just battled him for the whole game and had five or six rebounds. He held the kid to about 12 points, and he averaged over 20. Without Jay, that kid would have dominated us."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun