If you are from the Amity area, you know the name Pat Winkel. If you are lucky enough to have met him, you know how genuine, polite and smart he is.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to have seen him play baseball locally, from the time he was a child playing in Orange Little League, then later on the American Legion team, and finally at Amity High School where he was named Athlete of the Year in 2018 then you have seen the joy on his face when he’s on the field. This young man genuinely loves the game.
While in high school, Pat made headlines as the 31st round pick by the New York Yankees in the 2018 MLB Draft. He chose to study at UCONN and play baseball with his big brother, Chris, instead.
Earlier this month, he was picked in the 9th round by the Minnesota Twins.
Last week Orange Live talked to Pat to catch up, congratulate him and to get the answers to those questions that may have been bopping around your heads.
Here’s our conversation:
OL: How does it feel to be drafted again?
It feels unbelievable, especially with the draft being shorter, and less kids being picked, its even more of an honor now than it was back then. I’m finally able to start that chapter in my life and it feels even better.
OL: Out of High School you chose your further education and playing college ball with your brother over the Yankees, how is this time different?
I think I’m more ready. I used that time at UConn to learn about myself more – to learn about my game a little bit more and hone in on those things that I’m good at, and fix some things that I wasn’t “amazing” at to become a better player.
OL: Did you expect your name to come up sooner or later?
At the end of the day I’m just really happy that it worked out for me. It’s not really about where, it’s about the opportunity and that’s an important way to look at it. It’s great to say that you were in this round pick or that one, but really it’s all about getting the opportunity and getting a chance to come here and start that pro career that people always dream about. For me, just getting the call and hearing my name — it was awesome.
OL: Were you happy that it was the Twins who chose you?
I’m happy the Twins took me, it’s a great organization. I was surprised because it happened really quick from the time I found out they were considering me to when they took me was all in a couple of minutes. It happened really fast.
OL: Where are you now?
I’m in Fort Myers, Florida at their baseball academy which is their spring training complex and we’re doing physicals and acclamation and [other] work over the next so many days.
OL: The Twins have 6 farm teams — Are you going somewhere else or are you going to be based in Florida?
I’m not quite sure, yet. I’m down here for what’s called a mini-camp and then after the mini-camp I’m assuming the players that are drafted will be placed on different teams, but I’m not sure yet.
OL: How many catchers do the Twins have in their farm teams? What kind of competition do you have?
I’m not really sure. I know they took another great catcher that I met through college and this summer when I was at Cape Cod. He’s a great player. I’m not sure how many they have in the farm system but obviously everyone here is a professional and everyone is here for a reason so I’m sure, but the competition is going to be very tough.
OL: How many steps away from major leagues are you now?
OL: How did our local Orange little league, American Legion and Amity High School prepare you for this moment in your life?
They are all so intertwined. Not only Orange but the Woodbridge and Bethany (Amity) system puts such an emphasis on not only sports but also making good quality people too. The coaches we’ve had preach on you being a good person on and and off the field and tell you how to have a good character, so just going through that system and the little league system really gives you the tools to be able to go to that next level. So whether it was going from little league to middle school and middle school to high school, then college it just made the transitions seamless.
OL: When did you first take on the position of catcher?
I first became a catcher in little league. So, I’ve been catching for 13 or 14 years and I haven’t had any problems (knee injuries) with it, and that’s the goal to just stay healthy. I knew pretty early that that’s what I wanted to do, and that’s when I became serious about it. I think that benefitted me to take all of those years and hone in on one thing versus trying different positions and figuring out that I didn’t want to play shortstop or be a pitcher.
OL: How are your friends and fans reacting to the latest news?
Oh, it’s great, I’ve gotten so much support from all my friends, kids that I knew in high school who I haven’t talked to in a long time because we went to different schools, or they’ve been busy. But there have been a ton of people reaching out saying congrats and wishing me the best. It’s great hearing from people from Amity and even middle school and grammar school that I haven’t heard from in a bit.
My coaches were some of the first ones to call me. (Bob Mirto from Legion ball and Amity Coach Sal Coppola) They’re the greatest. They always wish the guys the best. I always have them to talk to, they’re always checking in. Those are great relationships that will never die.They are lifelong friends, quality coaches that only want the best for their players.
OL: Do you have any advice for kids in the early stages of baseball (little league, etc) to get to where you are.
Yes. At the end of the day, it is a game, especially in little league that’s the time when you want to enjoy it the most. You should really have fun and don’t put too much pressure on yourself, because it’s hard to play when there’s too much pressure on you, and you may not play well. So remember it’s a game, enjoy it the best you can and good things will happen.
OL: You were always known for wearing bowties when you dressed up, can we expect to see that signature look in the future?
Absolutely you can. That’s going nowhere.
Orange Live thanks Pat for taking the time to chat with us and of course, we wish him the very best in the future.