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Historic Draftee Patel Prospering in Winston-Salem

June 30, 2022

As Karan Patel was pumping gas in his truck on June 4, 2019, his phone started to ring from a number he didn’t recognize, so he picked it up. It was the Chicago White Sox calling to tell him that they were going to pick him in the seventh round

As Karan Patel was pumping gas in his truck on June 4, 2019, his phone started to ring from a number he didn’t recognize, so he picked it up.

It was the Chicago White Sox calling to tell him that they were going to pick him in the seventh round of the MLB Draft.

Patel immediately called his parents to tell them the news. However, he didn’t go home and celebrate with them right after the call. Instead, he went to go work out and work on his craft, showing the amount of dedication that he has for the game of baseball.

This dedication and hard work that he’s put in his all career paid off as Chicago drafted Patel, making him the second-highest drafted player in program history for UTSA Baseball and making Patel the first-ever Indian player drafted.

“It wasn’t really on my mind (being the first),” Patel said. “I guess my dad knew the whole time, but I really had no knowledge that I was going to be the first. I was just playing because I love the game and it just worked out in the end.”

It wasn’t always a certainty that Patel would be a baseball player though.

Before he started playing baseball, he was playing cricket. His dad, Kuldeep, played cricket for Team USA from 1998 to 2003 and put his son on the cricket grounds before having him play tee-ball.

Patel kept playing both sports until his freshman year of college when he had to decide which one to continue with. Patel had been a part of the U-19 USA Cricket Team in both his junior and senior year of high school and had again been selected for the U-19 team. However, this time he was a member of the UTSA baseball team and would miss crucial time if he decided to play.

So, what would he decide?

“My college coach kind of made me make a decision, ‘Are you going to miss our season in January or are going to play for your country,’” Patel said. “At that point, I had to sit back and make the right decision for me which was cricket can wait. I wanted to see how far and how long I can play baseball and once it’s done, I can pick cricket back up.”

But even if he wasn’t playing cricket, he still had a background of bowling in cricket, the cricket equivalent of pitching, that helped him gain an advantage over the batters he faced.

“In cricket, when you’re bowling, you have to keep a straight elbow,” Patel said. “Basically, how that translates to baseball is that I have a higher arm slot and that helps me stay on top of balls and I’m able to spin the ball on my curveball and fastball.”

This background, in addition to a three-pitch repertoire, helped Patel become a dangerous strikeout pitcher. He didn’t have the velocity that other pitchers possessed, but he had the skill and finesse to befuddle batters and get a swing and miss. With this skill and finesse, he became the first-ever pitcher in UTSA history to have over 100 strikeouts in a season, making the All-Conference USA First Team in 2019 and finishing third all-time in strikeouts in program history.

Due to this, the White Sox decided to draft him as a part of their 2019 draft class in which they drafted 20 other pitchers in addition to Patel.

Since then, he’s been shining in the Chicago farm system, especially this year in Winston-Salem. After getting off to a rough start in the beginning of the year as a starting pitcher, Dash manager Lorenzo Bundy moved him to the bullpen where he’s been dominant.

Since May, Patel has had three different streaks of three-plus games with shutout appearances. In June, Patel has hit his form, registering a 0.82 ERA, allowing just one earned run and four hits in 11 innings while striking out 13 batters. Despite this, he’s always grounded thanks to the man who put him in baseball in the first place.

“All my sports accolades come from my dad pushing me to never be satisfied,” Patel said. “I threw eight-up-eight-down in a game and the first thing my dad said to me was, ‘Why are you yanking balls in the dirt?’ so I have someone holding me accountable.”

Thanks to his dad putting him in tee-ball at a young age, Patel was able to become the first-ever Indian player drafted. And even though Patel didn’t realize he was the first-ever Indian player drafted initially, he’s made good on honoring his Indian heritage throughout his life.

“(My Indian heritage) means everything, it’s the way I grew up,” Patel said. “Being raised that way, I learned English second. It’s my roots but I’m also American so I do everything that I can that I was brought up doing but outside of that, I’m living the American Dream.”