2007 Alum Bryan Petersen Called Up to the Show, Now a Florida Marlin

After raving about this for the last three years and a few times in the New University, my dreams have finally come true: Bryan Petersen made his major league debut with the Florida Marlins.

Who is Bryan Petersen? Let’s run through the drill really quickly to get the newer UC Irvine baseball fans up to speed.

Petersen was the first UCI player selected in the MLB draft in 2007, the same year UCI finished in the top four at the College World Series in Omaha, NE. He was the one who delivered the walk-off hit against Wichita State in the Super Regional for the Anteaters.

Three years later, Petersen made his debut on Friday and recorded his first big league hit, a single in the top of the 8th against the Washington Nationals. He eventually scored the game winning run on a single by Gaby Sanchez. The Marlins won the game 4-2. Petersen’s Triple A manager at the New Orleans Zephyrs joked that the President needed to see Petersen before telling him that he would join the parent club in the Nationals capitol the following day.

How did he get there?

The same guy who came to the plate with Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” blaring throughout Anteater Ballpark was drafted in the fourth round for his big league build (which was at 6’0,” 160 lbs.), and tool set. He is now at a muscular 205 lbs.

The Marlins’ gamble paid off as Petersen cruised through the minor leagues. He began his first full season in the minor leagues with the Greensboro Grasshoppers in Class A where he hit .301 with 19 homeruns and 58 RBI’s. He was then promoted to Class A advanced with the Jupiter Suns and eventually played Double A ball with the Carolina Mudcats. He finished with 23 homeruns and 23 stolen bases at all three levels.

In 2009, Petersen’s power went down a little with only seven homeruns again in Double A, but an impressive Arizona Fall League showing earned him a non-roster invite to spring training where he hit a homerun in his first game. He was duly promoted to Triple A where he began the season with the Zephyrs batting just under .300. The rest is history.

Petersen credits his success in the minors to Mark McGwire. Petersen works out at UCI every offseason, which is coincidentally where McGwire tutors major leaguers such as Matt Holliday as well. Petersen told the Palm Beach Post that after a couple weeks he built up the courage to ask the St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach for some tips. Without hesitation, McGwire accepted and trained Petersen on a weekly basis until spring training.

Petersen continues to speak to the ballplayer who once held the single season homerun record and even called him the night he got called up to the majors.

While McGwire might have helped Petersen adjust his mechanics to the big league level, the mentality instilled in him from the UCI coaching staff is what has kept him sane in the grueling minor league process. He has credited the experience he had at UCI with instilling in him an outlook that has him enjoying the game every day.

His professional coaches have been wowed by his positive approach to the game, and his major league teammates have already caught on. He stuck by Marlins veteran Wes Helms during spring training, and even shadowed him before his big moment in the top of the eighth.

However, what impressed Helms the most was when Petersen approached him about Helms’ pinch-hit walk in the ninth inning, which was after Petersen was removed from the game.

Helms told the Post, “That right there impressed me more than anything about what he did. When I see a young kid willing to learn like that, their mind and their heart are in the right spot. That’s what you want to see in a young kid. You want to see a young kid who wants to learn and not think he knows it all.”

That is vintage Anteater baseball for you, never soaking in the spotlight, always working to improve. Eater Nation, be proud of your first Anteater MLB player in a long time, and show him off to your friends.

I know I will be, along with his signed rookie card.