In the world of Atlantic League baseball, familiarity can be an uncommon concept.
With none of the eight teams affiliated with a major league franchise, players can sometimes leave just as quickly as they arrive — as long as there's another, more promising opportunity for getting back to a big league organization. Roster turnover is constant, with many lineups and rotations almost unrecognizable at the end of the 140-game regular season from what they were in mid-April.
So when Brandon Boggs and Eric Patterson take the field together in next Friday's season opener for the York Revolution, they may be the two players on the field most familiar with each other, despite having not played together in more than a decade.
Longtime friends: Patterson and Boggs have a history together that extends well before their professional baseball careers began. The two go all the way back to their childhood days playing baseball under the hot, summer sun for travel teams. Despite Patterson being from Tallahassee, Florida, and Boggs being from St. Louis, Missouri, the two budding stars often crossed paths on the diamond before teaming up together at Georgia Tech.
"I've known him since I was 13," Patterson said on Tuesday on the opening day of Revs spring training at Santander Stadium. "Just coming up through summer ball and, obviously we went to Georgia Tech together and were roommates there. But, he's one of my best friends. He's a great guy, plays hard and plays the game the right way."
In their time with the Yellow Jackets from 2002-04, Patterson and Boggs helped lead the program to an Atlantic Coast Conference title in 2003, NCAA Tournament appearances in all three seasons and a trip to the College World Series in 2002. But, that's where their paths splintered, with both getting drafted in 2004, but to different clubs.
Professional careers: Boggs was a fourth-round pick of the Texas Rangers, while Patterson was an eighth-round selection of the Chicago Cubs. But, in a way, despite playing in separate organizations, their careers still remained intertwined, with both players following the same career arc.
The two progressed through baseball's long, grueling road of minor league levels, with Boggs making stops at three of Texas' Class A teams, its AA affiliate, then the AAA club before finally arriving in the big leagues in 2008. Patterson's arrival in the MLB came a year earlier than Boggs' did, but not without the similar, long journey. Stints in Class A, AA and AAA also preceded Patterson's MLB debut in 2007.
From that point forward, both players would have their careers defined by the constant promotions and demotions of journeymen ballplayers. Boggs was a .258 career hitter in the minors, but could never get it to fully translate at the major league level, only hitting .209 in 130 games. Patterson, with many more opportunities, was in the same boat as his longtime friend, playing in 226 MLB games, but only hitting .217 in those appearances, despite being a .291 career hitter at the minor league level.
The two could never carry their consistent play from the minors to the majors, and as their ages started to rise and their primes slipped further into the past, opportunities with major league organizations became fewer and fewer.
Joining forces in York: For example, last season Patterson shattered the Atlantic League triples record, collecting 17 three-base hits, four more than the previous mark. But, no organization came calling for his services during the season and then again during the offseason. So, he's back with the Revs, hoping to build off of last year's first-half Freedom Division title and first-round playoff exit.
Boggs found himself in the same boat as Patterson at the start of last season, beginning the season with Bridgeport in the Atlantic League. But, about midway through May, he signed with the Atlanta Braves and spent the remainder of the year with Class AAA Gwinnett. But, when the season ended and he was, again, a free agent, no pro organizations signed him. That's when Patterson reached out to him.
"He kind of sold me on 'we can work out together, we can hit together, we can keep our eyes on each other during the season,'" Boggs said. "That's the kind of things that Eric placed on the table when I came here."
Patterson also sold Boggs on York as a place where the people love baseball, no matter what level it is, and will support its team and players, as long as the effort is there.
"I told him it's a great atmosphere, the fans are great and they're going to treat us well," Patterson said. "You just go out and play hard, do your thing and they'll love you."
Together, the two will be a major part of manager Mark Mason's everyday lineup, bringing a steady balance of speed, average and power to an already potent batting order.
Nearly two decades since the two first met, Patterson and Boggs will share the same field. Although, the circumstances couldn't be more different.
When they met, they were just getting started on their baseball journey. Now, together once more, they're hoping to get one last shot with a major league organization.
"We'd talk about how to get back to playing the game the right way and getting back to playing professional baseball – affiliated," Boggs said. "... Anywhere you can play and keep your name out there, it's a great place to play and get back to affiliated ball."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com