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Patterson’s influence stretched beyond the diamond

November 18, 2012
By KIRK HARDCASTLE - Special to The Messenger ( , Messenger News

I've thought a lot about the passing of Jerry Patterson in the last couple of days.

Jerry meant so much to me for several reasons, and he impacted my life in several ways.

Plus, Jerry and my dad - former Fort Dodge Parks and Recreation director Jack Hardcastle -?were good friends.

I'd say hello to him when he was working at Patterson Field when my nephew, Nathan Matthes, played games there. That was about all the contact I'd had with Jerry over the years, though.

But I thought about Jerry plenty and always heard about him and his legendary field.

I drove to his field the day after my dad passed away in 2009 and spent some time there. I thought about how my dad loved to answer Jerry's trivia questions.

I thought about about how my family would come to Patterson Field to watch me play teener baseball for Keith Martin and Citizen's Community Credit Union.

Baseball is the first thing that comes to mind when you mention Jerry Patterson, and that makes a lot of sense. He was a main reason Fort Dodge is considered a "baseball town" across the state.

Much has been written about his impact on baseball in Fort Dodge over the years.

But not much has been written on his impact on the game of basketball in Fort Dodge.

The glory years of Fort Dodge basketball were in the mid-1980s, and Jerry was a big reason for that.

Fort Dodge High qualified for the boys state tournament in 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988. The Dodgers placed third in 1985 and were state champions in 1988.

I truly believe a huge reason for that success was the local YBA program run by Jerry Patterson.

All of the stars of those teams - Mike Murphy, J.D. Crumley, Thomas Clark and Wade Lookingbill, among others - played in the YBA league on Saturday afternoons at the YMCA during their junior high years.

This was back in the day before travel basketball ruled the world. We had our own very competitive league right in town and didn't have to go to all corners of the state to find a good game.

Jerry made YMCA basketball a big deal. He played the role of public address announcer and announced each game like it was Final Four Saturday.

He then put together a weekly newsletter about the games that included a story on each game, box scores, league standings and a list of leading scorers.

I still have all the newsletters from the 1982 and 1983 seasons and look at them from time to time. The detail in those newsletters is amazing. They bring back a ton of wonderful memories.

I found them just the other day when I heard Jerry had died, and reading them brought both a tear and smile at the same time.

Like I said, Jerry made us feel like we were in the NBA. I guarantee not many YBA players across the nation were treated like we were.

After high school, I had the honor of working on Jerry's baseball coaching staff for my summer job. I absolutely loved it.

He taught me that every player has a different skill level, but all pay the same amount of money to play so all needed to be treated the same.

I will never forget that and tried to take that philosophy when I coached my son's youth baseball teams a few years ago.

I felt bad that I didn't make it back for Jerry's visitation or funeral last week, but I couldn't get away from work. The day of his visitation, we had a press conference at NIACC for seven baseball players signing letters of intents to play at NCAA Div. I and Div. II schools.

Maybe some of those players grew up playing on fields similar to Patterson Field in their youth days.

I'm sure Jerry would have been proud of those players, and I thought it was fitting that's what I was working on during his visitation.

Jerry, you are already missed - but you will never be forgotten.

There will never be another one like you.

Kirk?Hardcastle is a 1987 Fort Dodge Senior High graduate and a former Messenger sports writer. He is currently the sports information director at North Iowa Community College in Mason City.



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