When Shane Peterson was finishing his time at Chaparral High School in Temecula, Calif., Long Beach State recruited him for his pitching. But when he left the Dirtbags, it was his bat that got him drafted.
“I recruited [Peterson] as a pitcher, and it ended up being something where he progressed more as an offensive player than a pitcher,” LBSU head coach Troy Buckley said.
Peterson finished his LBSU career with a .324 average, 52 runs and 59 RBIs from the batter’s box while compiling a 3-3 record, a 5.11 ERA and 52 strikeouts on the mound. He was the first player to consistently play both sides for LBSU since 2004, when Jason Vargas (who now pitches for the Los Angeles Angels) starred as a designated hitter and starting pitcher.
Peterson said the success of Vargas came into play when he made his decision to come to Long Beach instead of Irvine or Fullerton. The three-time All-Big West selection and First-Team Academic All-American said it was tough, but that it proved to be a wise choice in the long haul.
“It’s hard to give 100 percent of your effort to both sides, as you kind of have to pick and choose a bit,” Peterson said. “But it was definitely worth it. I liked going out on the mound dirty and getting out there to pitch and then hitting in the next at bat.”
Peterson was drafted in the second round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008, but the route that he took wasn’t directly from college to the majors. It started 2,500 miles away from home in Batavia, N.Y., where he played Low A ball for the Batavia Muckdogs.
“Shane [Peterson] hasn’t taken the fast track like [Jered] Weaver, [Troy] Tulowitzki or [Evan] Longoria,” Buckley said. “Shane’s a grinder, and he’s got a lot of perseverance and a lot of passion to be good at whatever he’s doing. He is very, very competitive, and I think sometimes he doesn’t get enough credit because he is so reserved and so quiet.”
After spending a year in Batavia in the Cardinals’ organization, Peterson was traded to the Oakland Athletics. He started his time in the Athletics’ organization at Double-A Midland but soon got called up to Triple-A Sacramento, playing his first games with the River Cats in 2011. It didn’t take long for Peterson to become an important part of a high-powered lineup that scored 60 runs in a four-game series against Reno just a couple weeks before he was called up.
“He’s been a pivotal part of the order,” said River Cats’ radio broadcaster Johnny Doskow. “He’s the No. 3 hitter, and he’s important to have in that lineup. With our lineup there really is no letup, so pitchers are forced to pitch to Peterson, and that’s not easy.”
Last season Peterson batted .389 batting in 131 at-bats, setting a River Cats record for batting average. The next-best batting average for a player with at least 100 at-bats was Esteban German, who hit .373 for Sacramento in 2001. German ended up playing in the majors for 10 years.
Peterson had not logged any minutes at the major league level before this season started, but he showed enough to the Oakland brass last season that he was able to garner a coveted spot on the 40-man roster — a sure sign of interest from the major-league club. Because of his major-league fast pass, Peterson was able to see his first MLB pitches last week. He was called up on April 16, when Oakland’s usual starting first baseman, Brandon Moss, briefly left the team for paternity leave.
Casey Pratt, who covers the Athletics for Comcast Sports Network Bay Area, was in attendance for Peterson’s MLB debut against the Houston Astros and said that it didn’t take long for Peterson to make his presence felt in Oakland. Peterson, who told Pratt that he was a bit nervous before the game, made a spectacular diving catch at first base, a position he hadn’t played once this season in Sacramento.
“What ended up happening in the game was very impressive,” Pratt said. “With the bases loaded, two outs and [A’s starting pitcher] A.J. Griffin on the ropes, he made a fantastic diving catch that pretty much saved the game. He picked up the starting pitcher and picked up the team, and after that, the A’s went on to win the game.”
The following night, Peterson recorded his first major league hit. He singled to center against Houston pitcher Xavier Cedeno and also added a walk, run and RBI to his major league resume. As is typical in baseball, his teammates didn’t let him reach the milestone without having a bit of fun.
“There was some hazing after he collected his first hit,” Pratt said. “Jed Lowrie was the one who received the ball in the dugout, and he immediately pretended to throw it in the stands. After that, they doctored up a fake ball where they spelled the name of the pitcher wrong, wrote the date wrong and colored all over it.”
Peterson eventually got the real ball, but his time at the MLB level didn’t last long. Moss retuned to the team and was put back into the lineup the following game, and Peterson was sent back down to Triple A in what was a planned demotion. Before Peterson left Oakland, Athletics manager Bob Melvin spoke well of the rookie.
“After the game, I asked Bob Melvin about that, and he said Peterson is a big leaguer, and his time will come,” Pratt said.
Peterson said he will continue to work hard and compete in Sacramento until he gets a call from Oakland once again.
“You can’t really control what opportunities you get,” Peterson said. “I just want to make sure that I’m prepared to go out there every day and at least know at the end of the year that whatever happens, I know I gave it my best, and hopefully that will carry over and get me some success.”