Patrick Herrera and his older brother, AJ, grew up inside of a dugout. Whether playing baseball themselves or as bat boys for the team their father Pat coached, they were always nearby.
From Little League to high school, the two were able to share moments of triumph and heartbreak on the diamond with Pat. There were times where he would scold or praise them as a coach and hug them as dad.
No matter the circumstance, they all knew they could rely on each other to be there in times of need. It’s what has helped them create a bond that goes well beyond what other coach and player tandems have experienced.
“Obviously it’s hard sometimes because he’s hard on me to do the best I can but I would never ask for anything more,” Patrick said. “Being coached by him, it’s meant everything to me. Just being able to share everything with him has been really fun.
“He’s been a really good mentor and a really good dad.”
When AJ graduated from Skyline in 2019, it was a bittersweet moment for Pat. Happy he had the chance to coach his oldest son in high school, he was also sad at the thought of it coming to an end. However, he knew he still had Patrick, a sophomore at the time, making his way through the program.
But on Monday, May 3 against Maryvale, Skyline celebrated its 2021 class. Pat took the field with his team and his son like he does every game. This time, however, it was one of the last times he was able to do so with Patrick.
Admittedly, the emotions that often come with senior day never really set in for either of the Herreras. Skyline still had another game to be played that would determine the Coyotes postseason chances.
But thinking about when the final moment does come, it forced Pat to take a long pause and reflect on all the years they spent together.
“I got into coaching because I knew I would be able to spend it with my kids,” Pat said. “There’s going to be a void when he leaves, for sure. I’m just cherishing the moments I have right now.”
Patrick grew up playing a variety of sports but took a liking to baseball and basketball. Throughout youth ball and junior high, basketball was his main focus. He played on a variety of competitive club teams and in high school emerged as a sharpshooter who could punish opposing teams from the three-point line.
He began making a name for himself as a sophomore on Skyline’s varsity roster under former coach James Capriotti. Patrick helped lead Skyline to the 6A semifinals as a junior by averaging 12.6 points, 2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. During that same season he surpassed 1,000 career points. Due to his basketball career, he had never been able to put 100 percent of his effort into baseball. That changed, however, as he entered his senior year.
He began receiving scholarship offers for his play as a shortstop. He attended a few summer practices for the basketball team but soon realized his brightest future would come on the diamond rather than the court. He shifted his focus to baseball, and it paid off.
Soon after Patrick graduates from Skyline he will continue his baseball career at Northwestern. His dream of playing at a high-level Division I school will soon come to fruition at one of the top academic institutions in the country.
“It’s definitely going to be hard but going to Northwestern I think will help me grow as an individual,” Patrick said. “I’m excited for the opportunity and hopefully (Pat) can watch all the games so he can still get in my ear a little bit about stuff.”
In his final season at Skyline, Patrick is enjoying success. He has a .379 batting average with 10 RBIs on the year. On defense, he routinely makes incredible plays from the infield.
While he aims to be remembered as a superb athlete, Patrick will also leave a strong legacy in the classroom. Aside from his baseball skills, his academics helped him qualify for Northwestern. In fact, Pat said he earned more scholarship money for his academics than baseball.
That alone is special for any coach to see out of their player. But it’s even more meaningful as his dad.
“Everyone you talk to, they’re like, ‘Northwestern, oh my goodness,’” Pat said. “It’s such high standards. I’m prouder of him for qualifying him for more money academically. I’m just really proud of how hard he has worked.”
After an entire lifetime spent together on the field, Patrick’s final at bat will signal its end. Patrick knew it would be emotional, whether the two are happy or upset about the outcome.
But overall, it’s an opportunity to share one last moment with his teammates and dad on the field.
“My final at bat, I’m just going to kind of let it all sink in,” Patrick said. “It’s going to be tough, but I know I’ve got support behind me. Playing here at Skyline has been special and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”