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Baseball is one of the most hard-fought, gut-wrenching sports if you want to make it to the top. While college football players can go straight from the draft to the NFL, and elite high school players can jump right into the NBA or NHL, even the best college baseball players tend to spend a year or two in the minor leagues before ever getting a chance to appear in the majors.
RU Spring 2012 graduate, right handed pitcher, Mark Peterson, is experiencing this first hand, as he signed a minor league free agent contract with the Kansas City Royals over the summer. He was the seventh RU player to ink a free agent contract with a major league organization and the first since Reggie Keen in 2010, who is playing in his third professional season under the Milwaukee Brewers system.
Like most successful athletes, Peterson started early, beginning to play baseball when he was just 8 years old, taking after his older brother. He had big dreams to play in the majors one day, repeatedly stimulating the epic moment of coming up to bat with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning in the World Series, hitting the game winner.
Practicing endlessly to keep improving for college level baseball, Peterson first landed himself a spot on the UNC Greensboro squad back in the fall of 2009. There, he worked 3 1/3 innings over four relief appearances for the Spartans. He then transferred to Pitt Community College in the fall of 2010, where he helped Pitt to the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series, posting a 6-1 record with a 3.47 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 58 innings.
It wasn’t until the fall of 2011 when Peterson joined the RU Baseball team. At RU, Peterson started in 29 games, posting an 8-8 record and a 4.47 ERA – his strikeout-to-walk ratio was better than 2-to-1 over 163 innings.
“I got to meet some great people and get a good education in the process,” Peterson said. “I was so lucky to have a great coaching staff from top to bottom.”
Peterson had the chance to pitch in some big games over his years, reaching huge marks. He made two scoreless efforts in 2012 with an eight-inning, 11-strikeout no-decision against UNC Asheville on March 25, and a 7 1/3-inning, six-strikeout win over Winthrop University on April 21. One of his finest career outings came in 2011, with an 8 1/3 innings win over Cornell University where he was perfect through 6 2/3 innings, retiring the first 20 batters consecutively. Making noticeable improvements in 2012 on his pitching speed, Peterson was able to consistently work every game in the 90-93 mph range.
Although RU Baseball was hard work, Peterson found time to have fun. His most memorable moment arose from the Jousting video him and his teammates created his junior year. With over a million hits on YouTube, the clip featured Peterson against High Point catcher Kyle Mahoney in a pre-game jousting match resulting from a prolonged rain delay.
Peterson took that free-living spirit to the MLB Draft over the summer. Being that it was a process to watch, Peterson saw fellow RU teammates snatch picks. Having to wait for several days, listening to draft choices, Peterson never heard his name called.
“The draft process was kind of a letdown,” said Peterson. “I didn’t have the best year on the mound but I thought I would get picked up late.”
With a little luck on his side, Peterson had the chance to go to an open tryout in Burlington, N.C. and did well enough to grab a free agent contract. The location was prime, only a short, 30 minute drive from his house in Raleigh.
As of right now, Peterson is in Arizona playing in an instructional league with the Burlington Royals. He has had the opportunity to work on the basic mechanics of his game, and has also got to meet some famous people along the way.
George Brett, former Major League Baseball third baseman, who played his entire 21-year baseball career for the Kansas City Royals, has been very vocal around Peterson’s league. Receiving instructional help from greats such as Brett, among others who once played in the majors, is helping to perfect Peterson’s baseball game.
Growing up as an all-out Atlanta Braves junkie, Peterson will have to slowly move away from that fan base. He mentioned how he has started to follow the Royals a little closer now.
Graduating with a degree in communications, with a concentration in advertising, who knows what Peterson will pursue following baseball. When asked, Peterson said what most would.
“I want to play as long as I possibly can because playing baseball is better than any 9-5 job out there.”
He also mentioned, though, that coaching would be an alternative if baseball didn’t work out. Regardless of which direction Peterson chooses to forgo, he will be successful. A blue and beige jersey instead of the red and white color of RU will not change the ever open opportunities that lay ahead for him.