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Double threat

| Thursday, Feb. 10, 2005

Some athletes are gifted at their particular sport. Then, there are those few who seem to be able to excel at any sport in which they choose to compete. Mount Pleasant senior Rob Patula is one of those rare all-around athletes.

Patula recently scored his 1,000th career point as a member of the Vikings' varsity boys basketball team, and he has been named an all-section baseball player in each of the past two seasons. In 2004, he was named the section's most valuable player.

"He's an outstanding young man, and like all of our kids, he's very coachable," Mount Pleasant head boys basketball coach Tom Traynor said. "It's a tribute, I think, to his parents and the community. He's worked very well with us, and he's shown steady improvement over three years. He's a joy, but then, I have a whole team full of those."

Patula's varsity baseball coach, Dave Capozzi, also said Patula is one component of a very hard-working unit.

"I've known Robert since he was young. He's always been a hard worker, and he's always been someone the rest of his teammates have looked up to," Capozzi said. "We have a lot of leaders (on the baseball team), and he's definitely one of the leaders, probably one of the more vocal leaders. He's a very good teammate."

Patula has had a lot of years to get used to playing as part of a team. He said he's been playing basketball since third grade, when a neighbor got him involved with the Junior Viking Basketball Association. And he's been playing baseball even longer than that.

"I've been playing baseball since I could walk. It's my favorite sport," he said.

Patula has been a starter on both varsity teams since his sophomore year, and Traynor said he has all the key ingredients for a successful career.

"He's very much team-oriented. He's very talented, and he's also an outstanding student," Traynor said. "You out all of those ingredients together with his coachability, and he's got the whole package. He's a fine tribute to his family and his community."

Patula said his family, his teammates and the Vikings' fans were behind him on his path to 1,000 career points.

"I'm really glad I got it, and a lot of thanks go to my teammates because I couldn't have done it without them," he said.

Patula reached the milestone in a Jan. 21 home game against Derry.

"I knew that I had 999 going into the game. It was exciting to get (1,000) in front of my family and friends," he said.

Several of Patula's teammates on the baseball team turned out to support him and the rest of the Vikings' basketball team, which had hopes of reaching the postseason all the way up to their final game. A win over Yough and a loss by Belle Vernon meant Mount Pleasant would make the cut.

"We haven't beaten Yough in three years, so it would be nice to knock them off," Patula said.

Patula, who pitches and occasionally plays first base for the Vikings' baseball team, also has hopes of knocking off some opponents when Mount Pleasant takes to the diamond this spring.

"We made the playoffs and won our first playoff game last year. We have everybody coming back, so we should go pretty far and hopefully, get a WPIAL title," he said.

Patula, who said he prefers pitching to playing the infield, hopes to further his athletic career in college, but he hasn't narrowed it down just yet.

"I want to play college baseball," he said. "I'm still not sure where, but that's what I want to do."

Capozzi said that although being a student-athlete at the collegiate level isn't easy, he believes that Patula can handle it. He added that, with Patula's athletic and academic record, he'll most likely get that chance.

"I think that he definitely has the ability and will have the opportunity to do that," Capozzi said.

Beyond playing in college, Patula said he hasn't set any personal goals involving baseball. Instead, he's coming at it from a team approach.

"I just want to win," he said.

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