Naugatuck’s Dean begins trek to majors

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Naugatuck native Pat Dean was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the third round of last week's MLB draft. Dean will begin his pro career with a Twins farm team in Tennessee.

Pat Dean’s first stop in the Minnesota Twins’ farm system has been determined:  Elizabethton, Tenn., the team’s rookie-league affiliate in the Appalachian League. That news wrapped up a whirlwind week for Dean, the former Greyhound, who was selected in the third round of the Major League Baseball draft on June 8. Since then, Dean’s schedule has been relentless.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Dean reflected on the hectic yet rewarding week, during which he made the transition from amateur to professional.

Moments after Dean received the news he was drafted, his cell phone began to ring.  It never seemed to cease.

“At one point, my phone literally froze and went dead,” Dean said.

Calls came from a variety of well-wishers, Dean said. However, his reputation only grew with each passing day.

“I would be in the store and people would be coming up to me and congratulating me,” Dean said.

About 48 hours after being drafted, Dean received a visit from a Twins representative. The next day, Dean was on a flight to Minneapolis, Minn., to embark on his dream of becoming a Major Leaguer.

“I thought I would get a chance to rest a bit,” Dean said on Tuesday.

He didn’t.

Once in Minneapolis, on Friday, he met with team doctors, toured Target Field (the Twins’ new ballpark) and sat behind home plate to watch his new organization host the Atlanta Braves that night. Along the way, Dean encountered Twins’ all-star closer Joe Nathan and team manager Ron Gardenhire and enjoyed a ribbing from second baseman Orlando Hudson.

Hudson stopped Dean as he walked out of the medical room. He proceeded to give the unsuspecting Dean a hard time, and told him he would be ready to face him during spring training next year.

“He called me ‘young buck,’” Dean recalled of his conversation with Hudson, who has played in over 1,000 major-league games since 2002 with the Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Twins. “He was very funny.”

After a day in Minnesota, Dean flew home for the weekend to spend time with family and friends. This past Monday, Dean boarded a flight for Fort Myers, Fla., to participate in a mini-camp for Twins draft picks.

The trip to the airport Monday brought back memories for Dean’s father, Greg, who recalls raving about Pat to his mom, Lisa. He had early memories of his son tossing strikes with his left hand in the backyard at a young age.

“I can remember having a catch with Pat when he was 7,” Greg Dean said this week.  “He could throw the ball anywhere I put my glove.”

Dean’s skill developed thanks to the assistance of many, and Greg Dean was quick to dish out praise. The help came during his Little League days in the Peter J. Foley league and all the way up until his time at Boston College, where he attended school and pitched for the last three years.

“I could never say enough about all the people who had an impact in Pat’s life,” Greg Dean said.

Pat agreed, and wanted to thank all the people who have reached out to him in recent days.

“There’s way too many people to name, but I just want to thank all the people who have helped me out along the way,” Pat Dean said.

But now it’s time to get down to business.  This Friday night, Dean will board a bus and endure a 14-hour ride to Elizabethton to begin his trek to ‘The Show.’

Life has certainly changed for Dean, who remembered a moment during the last week that put matters in perspective. It happened as he was walking through the Minnesota Twins locker room beneath Target Field.

“I stopped, and looked at the jerseys hanging in the lockers,” Pat Dean said.  “And I thought to myself, one day that could be my jersey hanging there.”