March 7, 2013
Pat Karlin played baseball for the University of Kansas from 1987-90. A hard worker on the field, Karlin excelled in the classroom as he was named Academic All-Big Eight and a Phillip's 66 Classroom Champion three times each (1988-90), a Jayhawk Scholar on four occasions (1987-90) and a GTE Academic All-American in 1990. He currently holds the rank of Captain with the Lawrence Fire & Medical Department and has coached competitive travelling and high school baseball teams for the past 15 years. He believes that America's pastime is a great way to teach the importance of dealing with what life has to throw at you.
How did you start playing baseball?
"I started playing as far back as I can remember. I came from a large family. There were eight kids in our family and I was the seventh of eight children. There were six boys and two girls. We were a pretty athletic family; most of my siblings played sports through their junior high and high school years. I have pictures from when I was two, three, and four years old; I would be walking around with cowboy boots on with a big whiffle ball bat on my shoulder. My older siblings and my parents say I almost always had a bat or glove in my hand. Whenever we could get outside to hit the ball around, we would. We had a big back yard and we would take the time on the weekends to mow a baseball field in the grass and have big wiffle ball games. I think that is where it started. I've (always) been a huge baseball fan and I fell in love with the sport."
What made you choose to attend KU?
"I grew up and went to school in Lawrence and I was a three-sport guy at the time. I played football, ran track and played baseball during the summer. I went to Lawrence High and my senior year they were starting a baseball program for the first time even though they were the largest high school in the state. Baseball was probably my first true love as far as sports go and I really wanted to give it a chance. I was under-sized, but I was getting scholarship offers for both football and track. Baseball recruiting was starting to pick up because we were starting to offer it during the high school season, so I passed on some football and track opportunities to see what would happen with baseball. There were a number of schools (KU, Duke, Harvard, Oklahoma State, Missouri) recruiting me for various sports, but I grew up here in Lawrence. I remember watching KU baseball and being at the ballpark on campus, where it still is now. KU offered me a scholarship, so I jumped at that opportunity. Plus, I am pretty sure coming from a large family, I did not have a college fund waiting for me and so a scholarship was pretty important!"
Describe your baseball career at Kansas and what it meant to you to be a Jayhawk:
"I grew up around here, so I was around KU a lot. It never got old. I loved KU and I thought it would be pretty cool to be able to put on a KU uniform. I still remember growing up watching KU guys like Lee Ice, Ron MacDonald, Mark Gile and those guys. I remember coming up when I was around high school age and watching KU play Oklahoma State. I was fortunate enough to play against guys like Robin Ventura. I think just getting the opportunity to play on that big of a stage in my hometown and the home of the Jayhawks was awesome. It was a huge thing to wear `Kansas' across my chest and to represent the University. On the flip side, I took my academics seriously, too. It was awesome to get a good chunk of my college schooling paid for by something that I loved doing. A lot of my other friends were going to school but in lieu of playing sports, they had to work a part-time job, and I looked at playing baseball as my way of working my way through college. I was just lucky I was doing something that I loved."
What is your favorite baseball memory from your time as a Jayhawk?
"Well, there are a couple of them that couldn't be shared publicly, but there are two that stick out to me. Keep in mind, there is a lot of verbal ribbing that goes on between teams and fans. It was a different time and place back then, but I remember my freshman year when we went to K-State to play, their Assistant AD at the time pulled up a flatbed truck down the left field line with a keg of beer in it and he and some of the students and fans were having a good time making sure they were well hydrated. We would get into verbal banter with teams and try to find clever things to say based on the situation. K-State's pitcher kept throwing his breaking ball into the dirt and after he did it four or five times, I remember one of our senior pitchers on the bench yelled out to him, `Hey 23, why don't you throw ball over the plate today and you can work on tilling the soil Monday in class.' That memory sticks out to me. Another one that I remember was when we were on our spring trip my junior or senior year; we made a swing down through Houston and played some teams down there like Colorado State and Rice. We had some down time, which was pretty rare, and we were at a shopping mall for whatever reason. The mall had this sound recording booth where you could pay money and record a song. It was during that era of the `Top Gun' movie, so myself and another player, Jeff Spencer, decided we would show off our singing (skills) and we recorded `You've Lost that Loving Feeling'. Needless to say, we were better baseball players than we were singers. I still have that song recorded in storage somewhere."
What have you been doing since you left KU?
"I worked in Colorado; I actually followed my future wife out there who I met at KU. I coached high school football in Fort Collins while I also worked in retail for a year. After my wife and I got married, I was looking in both the Denver area and the Kansas City area for jobs and I found something in banking in Lawrence. I did that for about a year or two and then, with the help of a high school friend whose father worked for the fire department, I got a job there. He encouraged me to apply at the fire department because they were making a big push for people with college degrees and, to be honest, I didn't like being in a suit and tie. Twenty years later here I am working for the fire department and I have moved up through the ranks. Currently I hold the position of Captain with the Lawrence Fire & Medical Department."
Do you still keep in touch with your Kansas Jayhawk teammates?
"I keep in touch with quite a few of them; it's kind of funny that the team aspect of baseball lends itself really well to the teamwork needed in the fire service. There are actually two other guys that I played with at KU (Mark Hummel and Scott Seratte) that are in the fire department so I see those guys on a regular basis. My roommates that I played with, and quite a few other teammates, stay in touch pretty regularly and (especially) through baseball alumni reunions and weekends. Guys that live out of town or out of state, it is easier to keep in touch now through social media and email. One of my teammates that was a year older was Craig Mulcahy, who I vividly remember throwing a one-hitter against Oklahoma. He now lives in St. Louis and remains a huge KU fan in that black and gold area. He was just in Lawrence a couple weeks ago and I was able to catch up with him and meet his new wife. Whenever he comes back or I go that direction we normally try to stop in and catch up with each other. Overall, there are quite a few teammates that try to stay in touch (when possible). It's fun to maintain those relationships and it is pretty neat now that our kids are starting to meet on the playing fields, so that is another way to reconnect."
Do you have any final thoughts on your time at KU?
"It was a great ride and I took it seriously. Looking back, I liked going to class and getting up really early for workouts. There was one time that they were trying to increase our footwork and our flexibility; that was the (time) period when aerobics classes were big, so they brought in an aerobics instructor at 6 a.m. to teach us baseball players how to be lighter on our feet. It's fun looking back at all those memories, friendships and relationships I had. I still run into those guys I played with and some guys I played against. It's those relationships, with the players and coaches, that were so important. I'm still highly involved with baseball. Even though I have an unconventional work schedule with the fire department, I coached high school baseball for four years when Free State High School opened in town. Then my kids' activities got to be too busy when they were younger, but I was out of being around baseball for only a couple of years and now I've been coaching their competitive teams and travel teams for about nine or 10 years. Plus, I'm back coaching high school summer baseball. It's kind of in my blood now and I think the love for baseball really grew for me while I was at KU. Baseball is the best sport in terms of teaching life lessons because of some of the aspects of the game. I know my time at KU as a player taught me a lot of life lessons such as hard work, time management, dealing with failure, and learning that life was not always fair. I went through a number of coaching changes and styles, and it is important how you deal with adversity and pick yourself up and dust yourself off after you have been knocked down. As a coach, I try to make these life lessons as important of a part of the experience as actually playing the game."