May 26, 2011
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
A funny thing -- well, maybe not that funny -- happened to DJ Peterson on his way to the University of Arizona. He made a detour to the University of New Mexico.
It wasn't a detour that Peterson initially wanted to make. You grow up in Arizona in either baseball or softball and you often grow up wanting to play for the Arizona Wildcats or the Arizona State Sun Devils. You want to strut your stuff in the Pac-10. That's the way it is.
That's what Peterson wanted, too, and so the Gilbert High star -- a First Team Louisville Slugger All-American and the state's No. 5 ranked player by Rivals.com -- made a commitment to Arizona and supposedly Arizona made a commitment back.
But not for long.
"They told me I had an attitude problem," said Peterson. "I'm kind of a quiet guy, but I don't think that was really it. They had a transfer player coming in and I think they just needed the scholarship money. So things fell through, but I'm really glad I'm not there."
The Lobos also are glad Peterson isn't there. The Lobo freshman was one of many Lobos who raised their game during the 2011 Mountain West Conference Baseball Tournament. A tourney title that fell into New Mexico hands along with an automatic NCAA bid. How well did Peterson play? He was named the tourney MVP.
All season, Peterson has shown the bat prowess that made him one of Arizona's top recruits out of high school and earned him All-State honors.
However, his attitude problem has surfaced in San Diego, too. One of the MountainWest golden throats made note of all the Peterson "yes, sirs," and "No, sirs."
"That's just how I was raised," said Peterson.
Peterson also was raised to hit baseballs. Like it is with a lot of future baseball players, it was, "Hey, the kid is walking. Let's go buy him a bat!"
Said Peterson: "At about 18 months, I was in the backyard swinging one of those big-barrel plastic bats at a wiffle ball."
There are no records in the Peterson family on how many balls Peterson banged past good, old dad, but the hunch here is that dad got his exercise.
In UNM's final home series against TCU, Peterson set the NCAA single-season record for doubles (now 31) by a freshman. He also holds the Mountain West Conference mark for doubles, regardless of class. Peterson banged out one double in the MWC tourney, and he is ranked No. 2 in the NCAA in that category this season as UNM heads into postseason play.
Peterson tops UNM's starters in batting average at .325 and has the team's highest slugging percentage at .558. He also is the squad's runaway leader in RBIs with 48, but he want to see improvement in that area. He wants to see improvement in every area.
"Yes, sir, I'm doing OK," said Peterson. "There are some things I need to work on, some little flaws I need to fix. I want fewer strikeouts (No. 1 on the team) and I want to do a better job of putting the ball in play with runners on.
"I came to New Mexico because I wanted to play for a hitting coach and Coach Ray (Birmingham) was my first choice. He's a great guy and I love his players."
Peterson, only a freshman, is a talent that Lobo Birmingham has to be drooling over. Birmingham has a reputation of developing some of the top hitters in college ball and Peterson fits nicely into that mold.
Heck, Ray probably can get used to all that "Yes, sir," and "No, sir," stuff, too.