April 3, 2010 in Washington Voices

Ready for next level

With brother in the pros, WV right fielder knows what it takes to be competitive
Steve Christilaw Wurdsmith2002@msn.com
 
J. BART RAYNIAK photo

West Valley slugger Mitch Peterson gets ready to take batting practice Wednesday. He is off to a fast start this season, batting .619.
(Full-size photo)

To borrow a phrase from “Saturday Night Live” baseball correspondent Chico Escuela, baseball’s been very, very good to the Peterson family, and Mitch Peterson is the latest recipient.

The West Valley High School right fielder is off to a fast start to the 2010 Great Northern League baseball season. In a doubleheader sweep of Riverside last Saturday, Peterson was 7-for-9 with 10 runs batted in, a double and his third home run of the season.

Peterson’s batting average stands at .619 and his slugging percentage (total bases divided by at-bats) is an astonishing 1.286.

It’s what you expect from a player who’s already signed a national letter of intent to play baseball at Washington State University next season. Central Valley’s Scott Simon and Mt. Spokane’s Nate Blackham also have committed to play for the Cougars.

“I think my parents are more excited about it than I am,” he laughed. “I think they’re relieved that they don’t have to pay for college. I don’t blame them. It’s expensive.”

But the game keeps on giving.

Older brother Bryan Peterson, starting his third season of professional baseball in the Boston farm system, made his major league debut with the parent Red Sox, pinch-hitting for designated hitter David Ortiz in a spring-training game in Florida.

“It was so cool to hear that he made his major-league debut,” Mitch said Wednesday, just hours after his brother reached base on an error and scored on a grand slam by Kevin Frandsen. “I’m proud of him. I’m hoping that our family will get a chance to go watch him play this summer.”

It’s beginning to look as if Mitch might get the chance to follow his brother into professional baseball. Already the family has received requests for home visits from professional scouts scouring the Pacific Northwest ahead of the annual amateur draft in June.

“I think it helps that we know a lot of these scouts from when they were looking at my brother,” Mitch said. “They know us. Right now they’re all over on the other side of the mountains, and they’re going to be there for a while. But they’ll be heading this way, and they want to talk to us.”

Scouts generally want to talk to potential draftees who are projected to go in the first 15 or 20 rounds of the annual draft. Bryan was tabbed by the Red Sox in the 11th round of the 2008 draft.

Meanwhile, Mitch said, he’s concentrating on getting the most out of his senior season.

Peterson had an outstanding football season, helping the Eagles reach the State Class 2A championship game as a combination safety/linebacker on defense and clutch wide receiver on offense.

Peterson had a clutch punt return for a touchdown that helped the Eagles knock off Selah in a muddy first-round game

For his efforts he was named All-Great Northern League first team for both offense and defense.

“This has been the perfect senior year,” he said. “Football was an incredible run. Now I want to do the same thing with baseball.

“The last time West Valley was in the baseball playoffs was when we were sophomores and my brother was on the team. That’s our goal for this year, to get back to the playoffs.”

Peterson has been building toward this season since last summer.

Following his American Legion season, Peterson played in the Mariner Cup, a series of nine-inning games to showcase the state’s top talent. Almost all of the players in the tournament will be playing Division I college baseball in the fall and many will be drafted in June.

Peterson hit .333 for the three-game tournament and made several outstanding plays in right field.

“I was approached by numerous pro scouts who confirmed he is on their follow list for next spring,” Mitch’s father, Mike Peterson, e-mailed after the tournament. “To a person, they all commented on how nice his swing is and that ‘his swing is more advanced at this stage than his older brother’s.’ ”

Having watched his brother go through this process and having seen what it takes to succeed at the next level, Mitch feels primed to make the most of his opportunities.

“I saw what Bryan did and I’ve tried to follow suit,” he said. “I watched him workout and improve himself in the weight room, and I’ve tried to do the same thing. I hit the weights pretty hard, and I can already see the difference it’s made in my game.”

Peterson insists he’s not alone in his commitment to making the most of his senior season.

“We worked hard as a team to get ready for this season,” he said. “It’s paying off. Our defense has been really solid, especially for this being so early in the season, and our offense is already pretty awesome.”

The Eagles are undefeated in league play at 2-0 going into a doubleheader today at Pullman.

“Pullman has traditionally been a tough series for us in years past, but I think this year the real showdown is going to be with Cheney,” Peterson predicted. “They’re going to be pretty tough again this year.”

Three GNL teams advance to the postseason.

Meanwhile, Peterson is paying close attention to his brother’s efforts in Florida.

For the past two summers Bryan Peterson, 20, has played for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox, an instructional league designed to help hone the skills of young prospects. This year he’s slated to spend the summer at one of two Class A league farm teams, either the long-season Greenville Drive of the South Atlantic League or the short season Lowell Spinners of the NY-Penn League.

“I talk to my brother all the time – in fact I talked to him just the other day on Skype,” Mitch said. “I’m excited for him. He inspires me to keep getting better.”

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