Zia League’s Patton a difference-maker

Patton jokes with Michael Cordova, 12, about pitching low during their recent game against the Reds at Beachum Field. Staff photo: Eric Kluth

By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer

Dewey Patton has been a fixture on the bench at Clovis Little League games for 29 years.

He’s volunteered his time and money to take teams to district and state tournament and is an indispensable part of the Zia Little League, according to board president Pat Grah.

“The kids kind of glow under his supervision,” Grah said. “When he’s out with his team, he’s like a father to them.”

The players on the Rockies, a major league team made up of 9 to 12-year-olds, nearly fell over themselves for the opportunity to talk about their coach.

“It’s hard to describe,” Justin Banister said. “He’s just such a great coach.”

His teams have finished first or second for nine of the last 10 years, Patton said. But for the Louisiana native, coaching is much more.

“It’s good to keep the boys off the street, keep them out of trouble, also to learn teamwork and help them be good citizens,” Patton said.

Long-time league umpire Bobby Light is a big fan of Patton.

“He wins because he’s a good coach,” Light said. “I’ve seen Dewey take some kids who probably shouldn’t be able to play major league ball and by the end of the year they’re playing ball.”

Light said Patton usually keeps his emotions in check and coaches for the right reasons.

“He can get excited, but most of the time he’s calm and a gentleman,” said Light. “Of course, Dewey likes to win, like everybody else. But, he’s there for the kids.”

Patton refuses to play on Sundays, and frowns on Wednesday games.

“I instill in the kids to always trust in the Lord, and not to win and win at all costs,” Patton said.

However, baseball has encompassed much of Patton’s free time.

“That’s the only thing I do anymore,” Patton said. “I don’t hunt, I don’t fish.”

Patton wasn’t led to baseball until later in his life. Growing up in Louisiana, he tried out for the junior varsity team.

“I got hit and quit,” said Patton. “I said, ‘I don’t need this.’”

But he discovered a love for coaching when he started out with his son’s Little League team. It took a few seasons, though, to get the hang of it.

When Patton started coaching, Little League didn’t have a mercy rule, and he recalls losing 50-0 games the first season.

By his third season, his teams topped the standings, Patton said.

He plans on coaching for the foreseeable future.

“We just go year to year,” Patton said. “If I can’t coach, I guess I’ll umpire.”