Pat Winkel won state championships his first two seasons at Amity High and helped lead the Spartans to the state finals as a junior.
In Winkel’s senior year this past spring, Amity “only” made it to the Class LL semifinals, where it fell to Ridgefield, 2-1. And yet it may have been Winkel’s most satisfying season of all.
“My first two years, winning the state championship, you get kind of greedy at Amity,” he noted. “It’s such a great program, and winning is such a huge accomplishment. That said, the last two years have been nothing but amazing. Especially with the team this year. Everybody treated us as an underdog. Even to get to the semis, that’s huge.”
Even bigger than winning a state title, according to Winkel.
“My senior year, honestly, is the biggest accomplishment we’ve had,” he added. “With the guys we had, a lot of inexperienced guys stepped up and took roles.”
No one, of course, stepped up more so than Winkel. The cannon-armed catcher hit .493 with six homers, 22 RBI, 10 doubles and 27 walks this spring, and has been named the 2018 Register All-Area Player of the Year.
— Pete Paguaga (@PetePaguaga) May 7, 2018
“There’s such a large talent pool in the New Haven area, to be named MVP is a huge honor,” said Winkel. “I’m just really thankful. Guys like (Cheshire’s Ben) DeLaubell and (Fairfield Prep’s Will) Lucas were easy candidates.”
Winkel wraps up an incredible career at Amity, in which he started all four years at catcher and ripped 136 hits. He’s been one of the most dominant players for a program that’s been the best in the state for a decade.
“I’d put him up with anybody, really,” said Sal Coppola, who’s coached Amity for a quarter-century. “Vinny Siena, Jay Esposito and him were probably three of the best ballplayers I’ve ever coached, as far as position players go. He’s right there with them. Incredible tools to work with.”
And Winkel may have the best future of all of them.
“I think pro scouts, when they look at Pat, may even see more projectible growth for him,” Coppola added. “He’s that good. Beautiful swing, big kid, he’ll be able to hit for power. He has so many tools.”
Winkel will team up with Lucas, a standout pitcher, next season at UConn. He’ll also be teammates with his brother, Chris, a first baseman with the Huskies. The opportunity to reunite with big bro was one of the biggest reasons Winkel chose to attend UConn rather than turn pro, even though he was a 31st-round pick by the Yankees a few weeks ago.
“He knows the team, knows the players,” Pat Winkel said of his brother. “He can easily guide me into the program – not only for baseball, but in campus life.”
In truth, it was a pretty easy decision for Winkel, who was also named 2018 Gatorade State Player of the Year. Although getting drafted by the Yankees was a “huge honor,” the Bombers never actually made him a bonus offer. They didn’t expect him to sign, and instead basically told him, “Hey, we really like you, we want to show how much we like you, and we hope you’re a Yankees fan for the next three years.”
Winkel is eligible to be drafted again after his junior season. Until then, he’ll be working hard to get better and, hopefully, work his way up the draft board.
— Pete Paguaga (@PetePaguaga) June 7, 2018
He knows it won’t be easy, and he knows the biggest challenges that lie ahead of him at the collegiate level.
“Managing a high-level pitching staff with really good, D-1 arms,” he said. “Being able to consistently catch that, learn how to call a game – even if I don’t get to call a game at UConn – to know what to call in this situation. And hitting the best pitching in the country, because (the AAC) is a really good conference.”
It all starts soon enough. Winkel has been playing for the Bristol Blues of the Futures League but will head to UConn this weekend to begin summer classes and work with the team’s strength coach.
“I can’t wait to get on campus,” said Pat Winkel.