When Pat Trettel graduated from Seton Hill University in 2010, one of the first teams to offer a professional tryout was the Washington Wild Things of the Frontier League.
"It was always a goal of mine to play professional baseball," said Trettel, who has been a catcher for most of his baseball career and has also played at first base. "I thought Washington would have been a good place to start."
The stars were not aligned for Trettel and the ballclub, however, and they went their separate ways. He started his professional career with the Lincoln Saltdogs of the American Association in 2010, and played for the Normal CornBelters of the Frontier League and with another American Association team, the Kansas City T-Bones, over the next two seasons.
All three teams -- like the Wild Things -- compete in independent non-affiliated leagues.
Sometimes a second look is the one that matters. Last month, the Wild Things offered Trettel a contract, and the McCandless resident readily accepted.
"I've always wanted to come home and play in front of family and friends," said Trettel, a 6-foot-1, 225-pound catcher who will turn 26 in February. "I thought Washington would be a good place for me, and I'm looking forward to playing in front of [the Wild Things fans]."
In his previous stops, Trettel has played at venues either seven or 15 hours away by car. Washington is less than 50 miles from McCandless.
He has learned some valuable lessons in how baseball is played at different levels.
"With a college setting, you might see the same guys for four seasons," he said. "In independent ball, you might see a guy in the clubhouse one week, and he's gone the next. When you come into a new organization, you have a new manager to play for and a new front office to impress. There is pressure, but you have to go out there, play with a lot of confidence and hope that the manager and the front office want to keep you and win that championship."
Trettel played at Consol Energy Park when his North Allegheny Tigers lost to Neil Walker's Pine-Richland Rams, 8-1, in the 2004 WPIAL Class AAA baseball championships, and a year later when the Tigers won their first Class AAAA title with a five-inning, 12-1 victory against Upper St. Clair.
"We also played there against California [Pa.] a few times when I was at Seton Hill," Trettel said. "And I was there last year when Normal played at Washington. It's a great facility."
Trettel has played at Consol Energy when it had a natural grass surface and now on its artificial turf.
"It takes a while to get used to the new surface, but from an organizational standpoint it's tough to cancel a game," he said. "It doesn't require that much maintenance, but I know that pitching off a turf mound is a little weird."
Trettel said his first priority will be to establish a strong relationship with Wild Things pitchers.
"The mental side of the game has to be strong, and a catcher has to be the director on the field," he said.
"Another thing I've noticed is how much faster the game is on the professional level, instead of the college level. There is a lot of thinking involved, and you have to be ready to deal with baseball counts, situations and defense."
Like any other baseball player, Trettel would like to contribute offensively.
"Sure, I'd like to hit," he said. "But my main priority is to have a relationship with my pitchers."
Trettel has a career pro batting average of .241 with 26 home runs over three seasons. His most productive season was in 2010 with Lincoln when he hit .277 with 11 home runs.
Before the Wild Things conduct spring training in April, Trettel said, he will try to get to know the strengths and weaknesses of their pitchers.
"I'll need to get to know who I'm working with," he said. "I saw some of the guys when I was with Normal last year, and I know they've brought in some new pitchers through trades and free agency. But I'll know before the season begins what I have to work with."