Some people will say Patrick Leyland got a free ride solely because of his father. Those who have seen the 18-year old catcher in action couldn't disagree more.
The first step in the process came Tuesday afternoon when Patrick was drafted in Round 8 by the Tigers (No. 253 overall), the team his father manages.
His father may be the skipper, but Patrick really had no idea if the Tigers would select him. Detroit took two catchers early in the Draft and Patrick thought his chances were getting slim. Luckily, the Tigers entered the Draft with their eyes set on picking up quality catchers. Patrick fit the bill perfectly.
"Being drafted by Detroit is a dream come true," Patrick said. "It's an organization I've been around and I'm really comfortable there. It really is unbelievable because my dad was drafted by Detroit. The coincidences are really cool and I just couldn't be happier. It's icing on the cake to stay within the organization."
But Patrick made it clear that he didn't want to be given any benefits because of his father's status. The elder Leyland echoed that message to Tigers scouts.
"I'm really proud of the way the whole thing went down," Jim said. "I never pushed anybody to take him. I never asked anybody to take him. In fact, I told them just the opposite. I said, 'If you don't like him, don't take him.' And Patrick was on board with that. He said, 'If they don't think I'm good enough to be taken, I don't want to be taken.'"
Patrick's selection was certainly warranted by the organization. He's best known as a defensive catcher with an extremely strong arm behind the plate. But he's not too shabby at the dish, either. In his senior season at Bishop Canevin in Pittsburgh, he hit .569 with 13 RBIs and 11 runs scored as the cleanup hitter.
His team was eliminated from the state playoffs on Monday, ending his high school baseball career. Fewer than 24 hours later, Patrick and his mother sat in Jim's office and heard the Tigers call out his name. It was a moment to scream and yell. It was also a moment to breathe a sigh of relief.
"It was the ultimate low yesterday to the ultimate high today," Patrick said. "It's been a crazy couple days of emotions."
Jim couldn't be in Pittsburgh to hug his son when he heard the good news, as the Tigers are in Chicago for a three-game series. But the skipper was on the phone with his son moments after the announcement.
"We talk to Jim a 100 times a day," Jim's wife, Katie, said. "He's so connected through the phone lines that nothing happens here that he's not aware of. And today he was really thrilled, both of them where."
Having a father as a big league manager certainly helped Patrick develop as a ballplayer. He's been in the Tigers' clubhouse several times and has even caught a couple bullpen sessions from Tigers pitchers. And with his dad being a catcher as well, he's been able to pick up several tricks of the trade. Maybe most importantly, he saw exactly what he would need to do to get his shot.
It was Patrick's individual work ethic that helped him take his game to the next level. He hit the gym hard and bulked up in his high school career, muscle that translated to a stronger throw and more power from the plate.
"He's a kid that got here with a little bit of that teenage pudge, but is leaving with an extremely solid 6-foot-2 frame and just solid," Checketts said. "Physically, he's matured and really worked on strength and conditioning. When the best player on your team is going out there busting his butt trying to get even better, it really sends a message to the rest of the team."
Said Tigers catcher Alex Avila: "He's huge, man. I can't believe how big he is. I'm really happy for him and for Skip. That's great. We'll see what happens in the coming weeks."
Signing Patrick likely won't be much of a problem for the Tigers. He wouldn't say it's a done deal, but he did say he's "very, very interested."
Having a big league name may have aided his development, but Patrick and his father know there's still a long road ahead before he cracks into a Major League lineup.
"That's the best part about this stuff is competition," Jim said. "Patrick's well aware of that. I don't know if he's going to be good enough or not, but he's thankful that he's got the opportunity. So you find out if you're good enough. And I'm not tough on him, I'm just honest with him. There's a moment of truth. You've been waiting for this all your life and you get the opportunity, but it's up to you to show if you can play or not."
Alex DiFilippo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.