Dean debuts for Rock Cats in front of hometown crowd

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RA ARCHIVE Naugatuck native Pat Dean delivers a pitch during his Double-A debut for the New Britain Rock Cats last Friday night. RA ARCHIVE

NEW BRITAIN — Everywhere you turned last Friday at Beehive Stadium in New Britain it seemed like you ran into someone from Naugatuck. That was because Pat Dean made his Double-A debut for the Minnesota Twins-affiliated New Britain Rock Cats and the stadium was standing-room only.

Fans began arriving two hours before game time and at 5 p.m.—30 minutes before the gates opened—there were an estimated 300 lined up anxious to see the former Naugatuck Greyhound and 2010 third-round draft pick make his Rock Cats debut.

The announced attendance of 8,214 was the second-highest single-game total of the season and a lot of that was attributed to the Naugatuck fans that came out in droves to support one of their own.

Dean, pitching in front of his hometown fans and with the added pressure of pitching in a pennant race, struggled in the first inning, allowing five hits and three runs to the Trenton Thunder, the New York Yankees affiliate.

But Dean wasn’t pitching for his fifth team in two years of professional baseball—each higher than the last—by accident. The Twins are quite high on Dean and for good reason.

After that first inning Dean went on to throw five more innings of four-hit shutout baseball, much to the delight of the overflowing crowd.

Trenton went on to post a 4-1 win as Jeff Marquez handcuffed the Rock Cats, throwing eight innings of one-hit ball. Evan Bigley had the only hit for New Britain—a solo home run to center field—in the fifth.

In the first inning, Dean threw first-pitch strikes to just three of eight batters. Once he settled in, he threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of the final 19 batters he faced getting 10 of 11 batters out during a stretch from the second inning through the fifth.

His final line of six innings, nine hits, three runs, and three strikeouts doesn’t jump off the page but what he did to overcome the first inning didn’t go unnoticed by the team.

“I was definitely nervous in that first inning,” admitted Dean. “My manager came up to me after the inning was over and told me to just keep throwing strikes, the team’s got your back. That gave me confidence and I just went out there and slowed things down and started to mix in all of my pitches.

“At this level and higher it’s 99 percent a mental game,” Dean continued. “Once you take yourself out of that mental game you are done. My teammates made some great plays behind me and I just bore down and focused on each and every batter.”

Dean is living the boyhood dream of every kid that ever put on a uniform. He started to get noticed back at St. Francis Elementary School when he pitched a perfect game, striking out all 21 batters he faced.

At Naugatuck High, Dean showed he was a definite Division I prospect as he concluded his high school career by throwing back-to-back no-hitters before moving on to a stellar career at Boston College.

In his first stop this season in Beloit, Wis., Dean threw seven innings of no-hit ball with his dad Greg in the stands. After that game, he was promoted to the Florida State League pitching for the Fort Myers Miracle. Dean pitched for the Miracle throughout most of the summer before being called up to New Britain last week.

Dean’s latest stop on his climb to the Majors brings the former Greyhound to within 30 miles of his hometown, and his hometown fans did not disappoint.

“My wife and I were so excited to see all the people from Naugatuck come out and support Pat,” said Pat’s father, Greg Dean. “I think everyone we have ever known in town came out. Naugatuck is a great town and it was a great place for Pat to grow up and I thank all his coaches and teachers for helping him to become who he is.”

The effort of friends and family from Naugatuck didn’t go unnoticed by the lefty, either.

“It was awesome to see so many people from Naugatuck come out and support me like that,” Pat Dean said.