Patrick Winkel was accompanying his older brother, Chris, on a recruiting visit to UConn a few years ago when a Husky assistant coach noticed Patrick’s unique sense of fashion – khaki shorts and boat shoes, with argyle socks pulled up rather high.
“That’s a bold style,” the coach quipped.
“That’s just my style,” Winkel quickly retorted. “That’s what I do.”
Indeed, Winkel boasts a style all his own, and we’re not talking about fashion. He’s an easy-going kid with a great sense of humor, always ready to give back whatever good-natured ribbing he gets. But always ready to get down to business when necessary, as well.
And business has been very good lately.
Winkel is easily the most highly-touted high school junior in Connecticut, a cannon-armed catcher who can also rake at the plate. Entering the week, Winkel was hitting a whopping .513 (20-for-39) with two homers and 17 RBI for Amity, the 15-1, unanimous No. 1 team in the GameTimeCT/Register Top 10 poll.
“As a hitter, he really hits to all fields,” Amity coach Sal Coppola said. “Defensively, he’s probably at a level of a high Division 1 college baseball player right now, throwing the ball to second base, which is just outstanding.”
Said Winkel, humbly: “I feel like I’m helping the team as best I can when I’m at the plate. Behind the plate, I’m trying to do my job, make the pitchers as comfortable as they can be.”
While Winkel may make it all look pretty easy on the baseball field, it hasn’t always been that way. He was one of only three players in Coppola’s tenure (joining future pros Jason Esposito and Vinny Siena) to start for the Spartans as a freshman, and had an excellent season.
But returning last year as a sophomore, teams had an idea of how good he was. Plus, he was hitting third in the batting order, as opposed to later in the lineup as a frosh. That added pressure led to some struggles.
“I didn’t have my best production year at the plate,” Winkel recalled. “It was a big transition year for me. Adjusting to the three-hole was a big challenge. I wasn’t going to see a ton of strikes, and if I saw strikes, they weren’t necessarily going to be fastballs.”
Winkel “struggled” all the way to about a .380 average while helping the Spartans win a fourth straight Class LL state title.
“Trust me, it wasn’t an off year,” said Coppola. “But at times, he was a little anxious at the plate.”
Winkel was determined to work hard over the winter, get in the batting cages as much as possible, see as many pitches as he could and get in more tee work, as well, to get more comfortable with his swing.
The results have been impressive, to say the least. Hitting behind the dynamic Hague twins (UConn-bound Andy, Yale-bound Teddy), Winkelhas become a much more mature, selective hitter.
“I feel like it really gave me a big boost,” he said.
Not surprisingly, many of the top collegiate programs in the country have recruited Winkel: Vanderbilt, Boston College, Duke, UConn. And perhaps surprisingly to some, he has already made his choice. Winkel will head up the road to join Jim Penders’ team at UConn and play alongside his older brother, currently a freshman outfield/first baseman for the Huskies.
Apparently, the good-natured ribbing about his khaki shorts and argyle socks didn’t dissuade him at all.
“Seeing how (Chris) interacted with the coaches on his visit, getting to know the coaching staff, I really felt like they cared about individual players’ goals and developing them to the best of their abilities,” said Winkel.
“And, you can’t beat playing with your brother.”