Fifty-one hopeful future Major League Baseball stars will take the field August 11th at Petco Park in San Diego for the 2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings. Of those 51, 11 are from California. Amongst those 11 Californian ballplayers is DJ Peters, the 37th ranked prospect nationally and one of the bigger guys that will be taking the field.
“It feels great. It’s a very big blessing,” Peters said. “You play this game to be the best and to play with the best and I’m lucky enough to be picked out of 50 kids out of the whole country to play in the All-American Classic.
“It finally hit me when I filled out all the paperwork that I’m a Perfect Game All-American now and I’m gonna be playing at Petco Park, one of the nicest parks in the MLB. (I’m gonna be) playing on TV, playing with the 50 best guys in my class.”
Peters’ doesn’t sit back and watch his baseball career blossom into the bright future it’s becoming. He works hard at the game and it’s always on his mind.
“Ask anybody, ‘what’s one word to describe DJ Peters? -- Baseball’,” Peters explained. “I love that people know that about me and I won’t stop working until I reach my goals.”
The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Peters would wake up at 6 a.m. to go to the gym to work out and run. Then it was more baseball as soon as the school day was over, hitting for hours before retiring for the day to take care of schoolwork.
“His work ethic is eat, sleep, and drink baseball,” said Arcadia Astros coach Sean O’Leary, who is coaching Peters for the first time this year.
“Sometimes it’s a grind and if you really love it you’ll make it a priority and that’s what I did,” said Peters. “It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s all paying off right now.”
That hard work landed him in Minneapolis, Minn. for Perfect Game’s National Showcase; the event that Peters believes got him a spot in the All-American Classic. It was in the Metrodome where Peters recorded a 6.92 second 60-yard dash and threw 86 mph from the outfield.
“The National Showcase was an experience in my life that I’ll never forget. Playing in the Metrodome -- so much history in that place,” Peters said. “I heard that that’ll probably be the last event in the Metrodome and I feel very blessed and honored to be able to see the last event.”
Peters tries not to let the big stage get to him in any way, the modest star is cool and collected when he steps out on the diamond, or at least he tries to be. The National Showcase was no different.
“I wanted to go out there, hit the ball, relax, and basically just have fun. I was nervous the first day, but when I dipped my feet in the water I got used to it very well and I loved it,” Peters said. “Baseball is a game of failure, we all know that. If you don’t have fun, why play? You gotta love it.”
This Californian is the type of player every coach wants, but not every coach gets. He has rare baseball talent and even better character. That is already evident to O’Leary.
“He’s very humble, plays the game hard, respects the game, and is a very good teammate,” O’Leary said. For a guy with his talent and ability he doesn’t have an ego, he doesn’t act like he’s better than everybody else.”
“The best thing about him is just who he is as a person,” O’Leary continued. “For example, I have a kid with autism on my team too and he can’t play high school baseball and that’s like DJ’s little buddy. DJ looks after him and takes care of him. I think that says a lot for a kid that’s 17 years-old and has that compassion and heart for kids with autism and stuff like that.”
Once you talk to Peters it’s easy to see that he truly loves the game. That has become evident to everyone who knows him or even has just had brief conversations with him. That baseball passion has been lit for almost 12 years, ever since he first picked up the game when he was six-years-old.
“(My grandfather) got me a glove and a bat and we just hit in the backyard and I loved it, so he signed me up for a local Little League and I’ve loved it ever since then,” said Peters. “All my worries go away when I play the game that I love.”
This summer must be pretty worry-free then for Peters, who has occupied his time since the National Showcase with more baseball. He attended a showcase in Arizona for the Junior Olympics, was part of the Area Code tryouts, and has been playing some travel ball with the Arcadia Astros.
“I’ve been pretty busy, but I love baseball. It’s what I do,” Peters said. “I just can’t wait to get down to San Diego.”
When Peters arrives in San Diego he will be reunited with some of the other California players he has played with before: Jack Flaherty, Marcus Wilson, Alex Jackson, and Scott Hurst. Hurst, in fact, lives just three miles down the road from Peters and they are longtime friends.
There are many more guys Peters hasn’t played with in the past and he is eager to take the field with the best 2014’s in the country. “It’ll be a lot of fun playing with the guys I usually don’t play with,” Peters said.
Soon enough, those players in San Diego will get a firsthand look at the type of ballplayer and person DJ Peters is. His talent, and even more importantly his character, will continue to bring Peters future success. Coach O’Leary wouldn’t disagree with that statement.
“Very rarely do you get a kid like DJ.”