Skyline baseball coach Pat Herrera always encouraged his sons to compete in multiple sports, something that has become a rarity with more athletes specializing in just one.
AJ, who graduated in 2019, primarily stuck to baseball in his high school career. Patrick, meanwhile, who is currently a junior at Skyline, found a niche in both the Coyote basketball and baseball programs.
“There’s not a lot of two-sport athletes,” Pat said. “I think he loses a little bit as far as weight room time trying to do both. I love it because I know he ideally wants to do both at the next level. I just hope he doesn’t have to choose between one or the other.”
Patrick’s love for basketball hadn’t previously affected his availability for the baseball team’s Opening Day. Up until the 2019-20 season, the Skyline basketball program had never been to the playoffs.
But after finishing 25-2 in the regular season, the Coyotes were among the favorites to not only make a deep run in the 6A tournament, but also compete for the title. With Patrick’s help, Skyline advanced to the semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Desert Vista on Feb. 27.
The length of Skyline’s run in the basketball playoffs forced Patrick to miss the first two baseball games of the season.
“It’s always difficult,” Patrick said. “It’s hard to walk on a baseball field and be good right away. Basketball is a little different, you can kind of get into a rhythm a little easier. In the beginning of the season when I’m getting back into it, I just try to get the ball in play and get my rhythm back.”
Patrick averaged 12.6 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists this past season for the basketball program. He was the second-highest scorer on the team behind Northern Arizona bound point guard Dayton Harris, who nearly averaged a double-double with 15.9 points and 9.5 assists per game.
His impressive performance this season resulted in him surpassing 1,000 career points with another year of eligibility remaining.
On the diamond, Patrick is in his third year on the varsity roster. In two seasons, he has recorded a .322 batting average with 14 RBI and 43 runs. He was part of the 2018 Skyline baseball team that made a run to the 6A semifinals before falling to eventual champion Mountain Ridge.
With several senior starters graduating from last year’s team, he was primed to step into more of a leadership role this year. But with his late arrival, others had to step up in his absence both in terms of leadership and at times, to help win games.
“We have a strong senior class this year, they just haven’t had to really be in that type of role,” Pat said. “Kade York, he’s a dude, I think he will have to carry us a little bit, but we have guys around him that I think once we get to region play, will help us be very competitive.”
York batted .358 last season with 22 RBI and a pair of home runs. He has been one of the players looked upon to lead Skyline alongside Patrick.
Patrick credited players like York and the other seniors for their leadership displayed so far this season. Not only do they help those who haven’t had as much experience on the varsity level, but they help him, too. It’s become somewhat similar to what he experienced on the court, where he was led by Harris and seniors Tyree Taylor and Tanner Poeschl.
Though he admits there are some differences in his own mentality from season-to-season that each group has to become accustomed to.
“For basketball it is a little bit different because all of those guys, they know I just kind of get in my zone and not talk a lot,” Patrick said. “I try to be a lot more communicative on the baseball field to get everyone involved.”
Patrick has also had the luxury of learning from his older brother, AJ, who he said had a work ethic on the baseball field he has since aimed to mimic. It also helps having his father as the coach, even if it sometimes comes with a little extra motivation after a poor performance.
“It’s hard,” Patrick chuckled. “It can be tough having a bad game and sometimes going home and still hearing about it. But I love him. He’s my biggest role model.
“He’s always there and trying to help me get better. He always encourages me to have fun, it’s just a blast to play for him.”
Patrick aims to help other seniors such as York lead the team back to the postseason to make another deep run. He believes the team has pieces in place to do so, but it’s just a matter of putting them all in the right place.
Luckily, the season is still young. Like most things he does, Patrick sees leading yet another Skyline program to success as another challenge.
“I take things on as a challenge and try to work ten times harder,” Patrick said. “I really think the sky is the limit for this team. We want a state championship. We are working every day to get it.”