After 34 seasons, over 750 wins, 13 league championships and nine section titles, including two national titles, Clovis High School baseball coach James Patrick is experiencing something new in the Cougar dugout.
“I told the seniors earlier today at practice, I’m kind of like one of them. This is the last time I will suit up for Clovis High, so it’s pretty exciting and I think our team is playing the best we’ve played all year and that’s what you always want, to end the season with a lot of energy and anticipation for the playoffs.”
Thursday, May 2 was Patrick’s last regular season game as head coach. The Cougars defeated the Clovis West Golden Eagles 5-4, sending Patrick out as a winner. But before Patrick can ride off into the sunset, where he envisions family time to be his next venture, he has one last postseason run to finish.
The Cougars (16-11, 8-7) claimed the No.6 ranking in the CIF Division I Central Section Playoffs after taking third place in TRAC, and they face Stockdale High in the first round on Wednesday.
Patrick has won nine section titles during his time at Clovis High, including the program’s very first back in 1995. The foundation was set decades ago and it still continues to shape Cougar baseball players today.
“It’s important to win, but it’s more important to do things right; practice hard, learn to be good teammates and just play with a desire to play together at all times,” Patrick explained. “Once kids find out what you need to be a part of a team, not just look at yourself as a player, that’s a good thing. Those are the lessons kids take with them through life and for me, that’s always been the basis for our players.”
Patrick started his coaching career at Kerman High School back in 1978 as a varsity assistant coach. From there, he moved on to San Joaquin Memorial-Fresno where he became the head coach for a few seasons in 1983.
With experience under his belt, Patrick moved to Clovis High School and became an assistant before taking the reins as head coach a few years later in 1988.
The players that contributed to three decades of dominance, on both a regional and national level in 1997 and 1998 when the Cougars captured two national championships, were a product of strong leadership and good coaching.
“The kids we had on those teams, during that era of coaching, they were super tough kids both on and off the field. They were a little bit rough at times, but it made us better as coaches and I just think if you let the kids know you care about them, they don’t want to let u down.”
Patrick would send one of his coaches, who was a Fresno State student at the time, to go into the athletes’ classes at Clovis High School to make sure they had the help they needed. If they were struggling or just needed a helping hand, the Cougars baseball staff was there to help.
Patrick knew the talent on the field was unquestionable, but he also cared about them as young men.
“When they were on the field, there was nothing to worry about with those guys,” Patrick said on his teams during the 90s. “That was kind of their salvation when they stepped on the field everything was perfect in their life. They were just tough kids and did not lose. If it was a close game, they just told themselves they were not going to lose and that’s just how their makeup was.”
Although the TRAC and Clovis community will miss Patrick in the dugout, his two sons, Chris and Kevin, are helping keep the family name in the sport of baseball.
Kevin Patrick is the Clovis West Golden Eagles head coach and Chris Patrick, an assistant on the Cougars staff and former head coach of the Clovis North Broncos, both give their father a reason to smile.
“I’m really proud of both my sons. Kevin has done a remarkable job at Clovis West preparing his teams and they are always competitive and even against us, we have trouble beating them so I’m just really proud of him,” Patrick said.
“Chris told me that he’s played in every level and the most fun he had was playing in high school, so he coached with us for a little bit before having 10 great years at Clovis North,” Patrick said. “Now he’s coaching with us again and we couldn’t be happier with him on the staff.”