Peter(sen) the Anteater
Major League Baseball’s Florida Marlins are now the Miami Marlins, ushering in a new era with fiery manager Ozzie Guillen at the helm. Hanley Ramirez is shifting from his natural shortstop position to the hot corner; the always-volatile Carlos Zambrano hopes a change of scenery will save his career; and Marlins Ballpark opens for business this spring. New jerseys, a stadium and a revamped roster highlight the 2012 Miami Marlins. But here’s a trivia question: Who hit the last home run at Sun Life Stadium, the previous home of the Marlins? Hint: he was an Anteater. No, it wasn’t Peter the Anteater — more like, Petersen the Anteater — Bryan Petersen.
An outfielder, Petersen is itching to maintain his major league status as spring training kicks off in the Grapefruit League in Florida. Despite a career stat line that includes just two home runs and 12 runs batted in (RBI) in 97 career games as a Marlin, Petersen’s two-out walk-off home run on Sept. 27 last year handed the team formerly known as Florida their final win at Sun Life Stadium. He now hopes to hit the first round-tripper in Marlins Ballpark, but by the looks of things, Petersen will need a mammoth spring training if he hopes to overtake any teammates in a crowded Marlins outfield.
Back in 2007, Petersen helped lead the Anteaters to their first College World Series appearance in school history — he remembers it like it was last Tuesday. The adrenaline that he felt throughout Omaha has helped him vividly remember Ollie Linton’s walk-off and the team’s elimination.
“We were an unselfish team, everybody took care of their business,” Petersen said of the 2007 Anteaters. “We weren’t the most talented, there were tons of teams out there that had way more talent than we did, but we had a bunch of really good, hard-nosed players.”
After failing to make the Major League post-season last fall, the former ’Eater moved back to Beverly Hills for the offseason, breaking a streak of three consecutive winters of calling Newport Beach home. His vernacular is that of a Southern California surfer, tossing “dude” and “legit” around regularly. For those into doppelgangers, Petersen has been mistaken for Ryan Gosling, Scott Caan, and Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. Two months shy of 26, his head rests levelly on his shoulders.
Along with Chicago White Sox hurler Dylan Axelrod, Petersen is setting a precedent for UCI baseball on the professional level.
“We just pass on the torch and hope that [the current players] pass on the torch and continue to respect the game and the university, and just play hard. 30 years from now, no one will look at [the 2007 Anteaters].”
He’s proud to be in MLB, but he owes it all to himself. If given the chance to give an acceptance speech, he’d thank himself for putting in hard work throughout the years and acknowledge those who have supported him along the way; he doesn’t care how others perceive him.
“[Every player should work their] butt off when it comes to [their] career and stop comparing [themselves] to other people,” he said. “That’s what everyone wants to do. People will always make comparisons; life’s a comparing game. When you compare yourself to people, there’s a limit that you put on yourself.”
Petersen likes to surf, jump off cliffs and write blogs about how he could be dead tomorrow. Much like his new manager, he is candid and brutally honest. With steroids and birth certificate fraud highlighting major issues that have impacted Ryan Braun, Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona) and Juan Carlos Oviendo (Leo Nunez, Petersen’s teammate), Petersen lightheartedly thinks that if given the chance to be two years younger, he’d change his name to “Blanco Persona” (white person).
“Dude, the thing with these guys who change their names, they always have frickin’ cool names,” Petersen said. “Like Roberto Hernandez is not as cool as Fausto Carmona. You see that all the time with guys falsifying documents in the minors. It’s hard to blame the Latin guys for that. If you’re in a Third World country and someone says, ‘Hey, you’re two years younger and you’re a prospect,’ so they take that. That may not be the right decision, but at the time they thought it was. I’m glad that’s getting cleaned up, because baseball needs to be fair.”
Back in college, he was a criminology major rooming with his buddy, Taylor Holliday. Petersen is two quarters shy of graduating and he’s changed his major a couple of times, but fall and winter leagues have held him back from receiving his diploma. He misses the trips to Chronic Tacos, Chile’s and Islands with Anteater teammates. In the big leagues, wives, fiancés, girlfriends and family members obstruct the team atmosphere that Petersen grew to love in Irvine. While he ostracized the dimensions of Cicerone Field, which he calls a hitter’s nightmare, Petersen looks back on college fondly.
“I miss the tightness of the group,” he said. “In college that was your core group and we did everything together. Someone couldn’t get a speeding ticket without everyone knowing, and in pro ball, I miss that camaraderie.”
While playing for the Marlins is much more businesslike than his playing days in Orange County, Petersen rooms with Logan Morrison, a jokester. The two lived together in Fort Lauderdale last season and they plan to live together in Miami in 2012. For a photo shoot last year, Petey and LoMo shared a bubble bath with a glass of wine.
At Morrison’s youth baseball camp last month, he teased Petersen for wearing a pair of old-school Chuck Taylors, black high-top shoes, to which Petersen responded, “Haven’t you ever seen the Sandlot?”
“You look like you’re from the ’60s,” Morrison replied.
The two are expected to bring comic relief to the Showtime documentary series, “The Franchise,” which Petersen hopes will boost fan support for a team that has finished last in the National League in attendance each of the past seven seasons.
While his speech is methodical, Petersen is anything but a sandbagger on the diamond. One of his favorite quotes comes from Denzel Washington in “American Gangster.”
“The loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room,” Washington said. It ties in with the hard-nosed, throwback style of baseball that Petersen plays with, the type of style where it’s a disappointment to take your pants off at the end of the day if they aren’t covered in dirt and grass stains.
“I like quiet respect from people,” Petersen said. “When it comes to baseball, I don’t like flashiness. It’s the head nod when a guy busts his butt down the line, you don’t throw a party for the guy. He’s working hard and it’s what he’s supposed to do, but it’s a quiet respect.”
Three years after playing in UCI’s first College World Series appearance in school history, qualifying for the 2007 CWS all-star team and being selected 136th overall in the fourth round of the Major League Baseball draft, Bryan Petersen got the call that every professional baseball player dreams of on May 6, 2010. He was called up from the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs to the Florida Marlins. The very next day, then-Manager Fredi Gonzalez asked Petersen to step into the on-deck circle and pinch-hit for pitcher Chris Volstad.
In a 2-2 tie in the eight inning, Petersen stroked a single to left field off of Washington Nationals pitcher Brian Bruney. He sparked a two-run rally and later came around to score, handing Volstad the victory.
“I was so tired in my first big league at-bat that I barely remember it,” he said. “I was nervous and that was about it. […] Even if you’re good at taking the crowd out of it, your body can feel it, like you shake because it’s so loud. Especially pinch-hitting when you only have one life, it’s definitely pretty nerve-racking.”
Petersen has his work cut out for him if he hopes to become an everyday MLB starter in the future. He’s not looking to be the richest or most famous player in the world; he’s living his own life. Whether Petersen wins a World Series ring, a batting title or is demoted to the minor leagues, UCI’s Marlin is working his tail off and enjoying the ride.