Central Catholic grad Ferguson shows power with Blue Sox
Bad luck is a frame of mind. North Huntingdon resident and 2016 Pittsburgh Central Catholic grad Patrick Ferguson's high school graduation party was like no other.
On a day where he was to let loose and reflect on his high school memories with friends and family, Ferguson was slapped in the face with a cold dose of reality — the one-time West Virginia recruit was told by the Mountaineers they were releasing him from his scholarship. The news hit the 6-foot-2, 210-pound slugger hard.
“It was like being stood up at your wedding,” Ferguson said. “It was tough because I was committed there for a year. In hindsight, it ended up being a good thing. I couldn't think of any other school being a better fit.”
West Virginia's sudden release turned out to be Kent State's surprise catch of the summer when by the end of last June, the Golden Flashes stepped in and snatched up the former first-team all-section first baseman.
“Everything just kind of fell into place and it worked out,” Ferguson said.
The stroke of bad luck turned into good fortune for Ferguson. He showed his potential from the first time he stepped into the batter's box for the Golden Flashes. On the road in Nashville in mid-February, the Kent State coaches wanted to see he could do. With the Golden Flashes holding a 10-0 lead over Belmont, Ferguson, a lefty, stepped to the plate as a designated hitter and homered in his first at-bat.
“My dad walked over the hill to go get it; I have the ball,” Ferguson said. “That was kind of my role at Kent this year. They just kind plugged me in to hit this year.”
It was a role he embraced. Ferguson went on to homer four more times and knock in six runs in 22 at-bats.
It was his budding potential and performance during the season that had his college coaches making plans for Ferguson to play summer ball, and the Butler Blue Sox were not only close to home but also a perfect fit.
The Blue Sox play in the Prospect League, which is composed of 10 teams whose rosters can only be made up of NCAA-eligible players.
When Blue Sox manager Cody Herald took the job, Ferguson already was on the roster. Herald said he liked Ferguson from the very beginning.
“When I first met him, he was a very nice and outgoing kid so I knew we would get along,” said Herald, a 2011 Butler grad who played right field at Seton Hill. “He's an extremely hard worker and wants to get better, and those are the things that I like in players.”
Coming off a 7-2 loss to Ohio in the MAC Tournament, Fegurson dropped his bags in the Blue Sox locker room just in time to start the season.
“I did look at him (before he got here) and obviously being at Kent State is a huge honor, especially playing as freshman,” Herald said. “In his first game here with us, I was just watching him swing the bat, and then I saw why he's (here).”
Things didn't go so well in his first game. Ferguson went 0 for 4 in Butler's 9-0 loss to Champion City.
“The thing with Pat, it's really hard for kids around his age if you have a bad day to not get down on himself. (He doesn't), and that's what makes him special,” Herald said.
Ferguson homered the next night against Champion City. Since then, Ferguson has homered seven more times and is on pace to break the Blue Sox's single-season home-run record of 11 set by Cal's David Marcus back in 2015. Marcus went on to become Butler's first league MVP that season. Ferguson is tied with Terre Hattes' Brady Cherry (Ohio State) for the league lead in homers with eight through 16 games.
“I'll never compare a swing, but his swing is probably one of the best left-handed swings I've seen in a long time,” Herald said. “I'm always jealous of lefties, and I think that left-handed hitters are always flawless.”
Ferguson's homers have been descried as the type that get people out of their seats. He blasted one out of Kelly Automotive Park that cleared the outfield light poles.
“He hit one in our first road trip against the West Virginia Miners that hit the (outfield) screen, and it's 370 feet and he hit the top of it,” Herald said. “He got all of it.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.