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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Stephen Peterson: Adversity Just Another Obstacle for Milwaukee Brewers' Prospect

Left-handed pitcher Stephen Peterson has been a scrapper throughout his baseball career. It has served him well so far, and with any luck it will help him one day make the major leagues with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Out of high school, the southpaw opted to attend Marist University, but transferred to the University of Rhode Island following his freshman year. That decision caused him to sit out the 2009 season, but an injury playing summer baseball led to Tommy John surgery, and led to him missing two full seasons.

Peterson came back as a senior in 2012 to post a perfect 6-0 record as a Ram, with a 3.06 ERA and 69 strikeouts. Despite the stellar numbers, they weren’t enough to overcome having missed so much time when it came to having a team take a chance on him in the draft.

The Brewers ultimately decided he was too promising a prospect to pass up and signed him to a free-agent contract. He has spent the past three seasons working exclusively as a reliever, trying to make his way through the system.

Peterson was 5-1 with a 3.23 ERA and a save in 41 games at high Single-A this year. He also struck out an impressive 58 batters in 64 innings, while permitting just 12 walks.

During his three professional seasons, he has moved up a level each year, posting a cumulative 9-5 record with four saves and a 3.20 ERA in 80 games. About to turn 26, he is getting older for a prospect, but has his major league aspirations very much in play with his steady performance as he has risen through the minors.

Left-handed pitchers are always in demand. Peterson’s dogged determination combined with his fortuitous handedness means nobody should bet against him one day reaching baseball’s biggest stage.

Stephen Peterson Interview:

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?:
My favorite player growing up was Roger Clemens. My dad told me that when I was young I would stand in front of the TV and go through the windup trying to be just like him.

I am also a big fan of Derek Jeter. Growing up a huge Red Sox fan, I used to make a lot of people angry saying that, but you can't argue about his leadership and the way he plays the game. I like to model myself around the way he goes about his business.

How mentally and physically challenging was it to come back after missing two years because of injury?: Coming back from injuries is tough. The biggest thing for me was working hard and listening to trainers and therapists. It’s easy to get down on yourself when you have tough days. I focused on listening to my body and preparing myself to get better every day. I knew if I worked hard and pushed myself I could come back better.

I had a lot of great people around me who pushed me and helped me get to where I am today. I owe a lot to Coach Foster at URI. He never lost faith in me, and would always be there for me when I needed him. My final season, I had a few rough starts to begin the year, but he kept pushing me and helped me turn my season around and perform the way I knew I was capable of.

Did you believe you were going to be drafted, and how were you feeling after the 2011 draft ended and you weren't selected?: The 2011 draft was tough for me. After talking to Coach Foster, I believed there was a chance I could be taken late. When it didn't happen, I was upset. I remember watching the draft for three days with my father at his office, and watching the names come and go and not being taken. I walked out of his office on the last day feeling pretty low (To this day I think the only thing that kept me sane was the fact that the Bruins were playing in the Stanley Cup.) I never lost faith in myself though. I knew my career wasn't over. That last day of the draft put a chip on my shoulder that I still carry to this day. That feeling that nobody wants you. It stills lights a fire in me every day to go out and earn it every day.

How did you come to sign with the Brewers?: It was two days after the draft. I remember my mother calling me and saying that a scout from the Milwaukee Brewers had just called and asked for my cell phone number. I could tell by the tone of her voice how excited/frantic she was. She wanted to make sure I was hovering over my phone and ready to answer. A minute later, Brewers scout Brian Sankey called me and asked if I had been talking with any other teams. After a short conversation, Brian asked if I'd like to be a Milwaukee Brewer. Words can't describe my feelings or thoughts at that moment. A dream come true would be an understatement. I had my girlfriend and my family around me at the time to share that special moment. A moment I will surely never forget.

Which coach or manager has had the greatest influence on you?: Coach Foster from URI has helped me the most with getting to where I am today. The way he prepares players and the way he has prepared me for the next level is amazing and I could never thank him enough for that. He would tell us every day that everything we do as a program is designed to help you maximize your goals and make it to the next level. Everything we did as a pitching staff and as a team had a purpose. As I said before, he could have told me it’s time to part ways after my second straight year of sitting out because of injury, but instead he did the opposite. He took time out of his schedule to work with me and get me back to the pitcher he recruited to help his team.

On the pro ball side, I owe a lot to my pitching coach in Wisconsin last season, Dave Chavarria. After a rough patch and a rough outing, he told me to meet him in the bullpen after I threw the next day. He told me a few things he saw and a few towel drills I could do to clean up my delivery. I think it’s safe to say now he saved my season. From that day on we were out there before every game doing towel drills and getting better. I felt more comfortable each game and continue those same drills now to keep my mechanics clean.

Off the field, I wouldn't be the person or player I am today without my girlfriend and my family. They are the ones who make the sacrifices and are always there for me. The support I receive from them drives me to be the best I can be. For me, it’s that feeling that I never want to let them down.

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

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