When you have a great rivalry series, such as the one between Texas A&M and Texas, fans from both sides look for players who elevate their game in such an intense setting. Once those players are found, they tend to be adored for years and years beyond.
Perhaps affectionately, and perhaps not, we call them Longhorn killers. Maybe they don't always win the game, but the guy who makes big-times play – consistently – in these big-time games will tend to find a big-time place in Aggie hearts.
To be fair, there's plenty of Aggie killers who wear orange as well. For Aggie baseball fans of the last decade, names like Dustin Majewski and David Maroul fly off of the tongue.
Historically, in the eyes of Aggie baseball, no one owns that status quite like John Byington. If someone could ever one-up his day from 1989, the rest of us should bottle up whatever's flowing at Olsen that day and sell it.
The situation is well documented at this point; A&M must win two games against the Longhorns this weekend, or their Big 12 and national seed aspirations are quite literally gone. A&M hasn't even beaten Texas in the regular season since Rob Childress' arrival (the last win was, ironically, Mark Johnson's last as the Aggie skipper), and they have won the season series just once in the last decade – 2003.
That 2003 team did feature a Longhorn killer though, in the form of Cory Patton. A fan favorite (certainly mine) even to this day, Patton hit a home run in each of A&M's wins over Texas and, in what was surely a homage to Terrence Kiel, donated that Sunday's game ball to the fans beyond the right field wall.
During his two seasons in Aggieland, and ten career games against Texas, Patton's numbers are astounding. He hit .375 with six homeruns and 17 RBI, scoring nine runs and reaching base at a .521 clip. He homered against Texas in every venue the teams played at – Olsen, Disch-Falk, Bricktown, and The Ballpark in Arlington. He had 7 RBI in a 2004 loss at Olsen Field – with all seven RBI coming in the first four innings – and was able to put up some great numbers despite being constantly pitched around.
He was a Longhorn Killer. Perhaps we need another.
Scanning the 2009 lineup for "that guy" doesn't take very long. You need someone who hasn't been in the situation before, someone who brings infectious energy to the field, someone who could change the game on a single swing.
The title isn't elected nor bestowed, it has to be earned on the field, but I can't get past a single thought in my head.
Joe Patterson can be that guy.
Never played the Horns before? Check. Ridiculously high energy level? Check Check. Someone who can change the game in a single swing? Check Check Check.
Patterson enters the weekend hitting .352 with eight homeruns in 33 RBI – in just 88 at bats. If he had 180 at bats like everyday starters Luke Anders and Kyle Colligan do, and continued the performance trend, he'd have 16 dingers and 67 RBI – and clearly leads the team in HR and RBI per AB. He's tearing up Big 12 pitching as well; hitting .450 with 4 HR and 18 RBI in just 40 AB. His league OPS? 1.325.
Like Patton, he's a power hitting lefty. Like Patton, he played ball in Owasso (OK). Like Patton, he's become a crowd favorite in a very short amount of time. Like Patton, he's shown a flair for coming up big when needed the most (Patterson is hitting almost .600 with 13 RBIs in the eighth inning or later this season).
Can he be like Patton this weekend? Only time will tell. Again, the title cannot be elected or bestowed – it must be earned. Maybe it won't be Patterson – maybe it's Caleb Shofner, or David Alleman, Adam Smith, or even Brooks Raley.
For A&M to win this series, a series they must have, someone will need to step out and be "that guy." My money is on the kid from Owasso who, each time he gets on base, looks like a kid walking into the living room on Christmas morning. He exudes unbridled confidence with apparent ice water in his veins.
Joe Patterson is our guy.
Patterson is our guy.
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