Prep Baseball PREP BASEBALL: Bearcats ready to play ball | The Cullman Tribune

Prep Baseball

PREP BASEBALL: Bearcats ready to play ball

Coach Brent Patterson and the Bearcats will travel south to play Fairhope and Daphne on Feb. 19, on Presidents Day. / Nick Griffin

CULLMAN - It may not feel like it outside right now, but baseball season is quickly approaching, and the Cullman High School Bearcats and head coach Brent Patterson are counting down the days. Patterson has led the ‘Cats to four straight appearances in the State Championship in Montgomery and brought home a Blue Map in 2015. The Bearcats came up just short against Helena in Montgomery last season, but Patterson is excited to reload for another title run in 2018 with a lot of new faces in the lineup.

The ‘Cats lost 10 seniors from last year’s team, but Patterson is pleased with how his team has prepared during the offseason and wants to see that work translate on the field.

“We’ve done a lot of good things, even starting last summer. Summer was a little more fun than normal because we got so many more guys jumping in. Now it’s their turn and there’s so many question marks all over the field,” Patterson said. “We played some good competition and played really well in the summer at times and there are a lot of guys that no one has really heard of yet so there’s all sorts of potential, but until you get on the field and actually do it, it’s just potential. We have to get out there and prove some of the things we know we can do. It’s been fun watching guys kind of take on their new roles and there are a lot of strengths this team can have.”

Patterson relies a lot on his assistant coaches throughout the year to help prepare younger players to step into varsity roles. He credits a lot of his team’s preparation to those assistants and to the work that his players put in at a young age.

“You have to plan for that beforehand and try not to wait until it actually happens,” Patterson said. “Coach Patrick Britton was our junior varsity coach last year and I talked to him and we had a lot of sophomores on the JV, a lot of times you don’t, and we told them that we really thought they could go undefeated. That’s not normally the way that we talk; we don’t talk about undefeated seasons, we talk about the next game, but basically the point of that was to let them know we believe they’re really good and that they should have high expectations and show up every day. They lost their last game of the year and I think they were 26 or 27-1 so Coach Britton and all of the coaches did a great job of trying to get them to play their season like it’s a varsity season.”

Replacing talent and experience is not something new for Patterson and Cullman Baseball. In the last decade alone, Cullman has seen several players go on to play professionally and dozens go on to play collegiately. Patterson has had multiple offseasons like this one and has learned to not only look for talent in players and teams, but also intangible qualities.

“We’ve tried to prepare them in that way and obviously we’ve tried to prepare physically to get bigger, faster and stronger so we’re working hard in that area. When you lose a big group, whether it’s because of talent or the personalities of the leadership that left, you know that it takes a little while for guys to start understanding that kind of role because that group that just left, their personality and because they were talented, we lost a lot of leadership,” Patterson said. “Every year you’re trying to figure out how to make that work and that’s the hardest part is who is going to be looked at as ‘the guy.’ Coaches can only do so much; in the locker room behind closed doors, players get things done, and ultimately coaches can’t want teams to be good, players have to want that, so that’s something that we’re working our way through right now.”

The Bearcats tend to travel and seek out the best competition they can find early in the season and that won’t be stopping this year. Patterson and the ‘Cats have some trips planned for the 2018 season to compete with some of the best teams in the state and the Southeast.

“We’ll open up going down south, hopefully getting some warm weather, and we’re going to play Fairhope and Daphne on Feb. 19, on Presidents Day. We’re out of school the next day so we don’t have to turn right back around, and we’ll be able to take the next day to travel. Coaches will come home early and practice the young kids. Both Fairhope and Daphne always have good teams; Daphne has given us fits lately and so we’re looking forward to that trip. We’ll go to LakePoint again over in Emerson, Georgia for a really good high school tournament. I talked to those guys recently and they’re supposed to have another really good tournament over there this year. We went last year and really enjoyed it, lots of good competition and we played well. Over there you never have to worry about weather unless it’s storming because there’s turf fields and so we’re looking forward to that trip. We’re also going to go back down to Hoover for our spring break trip. It’s close; we get to play seven or eight games and we’re looking to try and play as much as possible.”

Patterson reflected on how much support the baseball program receives from the community and how fortunate he and his team are to be able to take advantage of that support system.

“I like to talk about how our community has been so good to us because it’s incredible,” he smiled. “We get to go do a lot of good stuff, hopefully put a great product on the field, and it helps keep our guys accountable when the community is so behind what we do. Our guys know that they have a lot of people here that are doing a lot for us and we need to approach every day with some gratitude, with some humility and with an attitude of we want to go out there and represent our school and our community well. We are just so thankful to have a community like ours that is behind us.”

Patterson and the ‘Cats are just a few weeks away from Opening Day and there will be plenty of new faces on the field to pull for.

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