CINCINNATI — Mark Patrick, like a lot of fathers, wanted his son to be a successful athlete. But even Patrick never dreamed about his kid playing for the local big league team.
“My big goal for him was — when I realized at 13, 14 he was going to be pretty good — boy, it would be great if he could play in college,” Patrick said. “And play close enough that I could go on weekends and watch him play. That was kind of a dream.”
Turns out he was setting the dream-bar low.
Patrick’s son, Drew Storen, made it well past playing in college. And now Storen is coming home, so to speak, to play for the Reds -- as their big free agent signing of this offseason.
Storen, the 29-year-old right-handed reliever, grew up in the Indianapolis suburb of Brownsburg, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a big league player with more connections to a team than Storen.
His father, Mark, was a bat boy and later a clubhouse attendant for the Indianapolis Indians when they were the Reds’ Triple A farm team. Mark, real name Mark Patrick Storen, went on to be the sports anchor at WISH-TV, the Indianapolis CBS affiliate, and a radio sports-talk host.
“I think it’s really cool for him,” Patrick said. “It wasn’t like he was living in Cincinnati. But he got exposed to so many things just because of what I got to do. He played catch with Aaron Boone. Guys like that.
“Drew would go with me on live shots when I’d go to the Indians games. He got to know those guys. Then they’d get called up to the Reds. It was fun for him.”
Patrick figured out early on that Drew was going to exceed the goal of just playing in college.
“His junior year in high school, scouts started talking to me and flat out told me that he was going to play in the big leagues,” Patrick said. “You sit there and go: ‘I think he’s pretty good. Is that because I’ve been around baseball a long time and I know that? Or is it because he’s my son? What am I supposed to think about this?’ You have to try to temper it.”
He really didn’t have to temper expectations.
Storen was all-state at Brownsburg. He went on to Stanford, where he was All-PAC 10. The Washington Nationals made him the 10th pick overall in the 2009 draft.
He was in the big leagues the next year.
Storen had a good five-year run with the Nationals. He was 21-13 with a 3.02 ERA and 98 saves. He was considered one of the top relievers in the baseball by 2014.
“It never occurred to me that he’d play on the Reds,” Patrick said. “The chances are 1-in-30.”
But Storen was traded to Toronto last offseason. That set in motion the series of events that ended with Storen signing with the Reds. He struggled with the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays traded him to Seattle at the trade deadline.
The year was Storen’s worst in the big leagues. His ERA was 5.23.
Those struggles dropped him to the Reds price range. He signed a one-year deal for $3 million with a chance to make $1.5 million more in incentives.
Storen’s Reds connections were a factor in him landing with the Reds
“Being from the area and it being my hometown team, it’s special that this worked out,” he said. “It's a great opportunity for me.”
Storen has another connection with the Reds. Catcher Tucker Barnhart was his teammate at Brownsburg. That was another factor in him signing with the Reds.
“I enjoyed throwing to him in high school, and we’ve played catch in the offseason,” Storen said. “He’s a great catcher and knows what I like to do. It’s going to be a fun year. He’s sharp behind the plate and makes those low pitches look pretty good. I like that.”
Storen and Barnhart won’t be the first high school teammates to be battery mates with the Reds. Jim Maloney and Pat Corrales were high school teammates in Fresco, California.
Patrick credits Storen’s childhood experiences with helping get him to the big leagues.
“I liked to do live shots,” Patrick said. “I’d go where the games were — Pacers, Indians, college games. I was out at Busch Stadium, Victory Field a lot. Whenever I did those things, I’d try to bring Drew with me. He’d be exposed to those situations. If he was ever lucky enough to get into a big situation, he wasn’t overwhelmed by it.
“The side benefit was he ended up making friends with so many players. He realized they were people like us. They happen to make it.”
As did Storen.
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at email@example.com.