JOHNSONBURG — Anyone who grew up playing sports at some point dreamed of becoming a professional athlete.
That was certainly the case for former Johnsonburg standout Cole Peterson, who longed to be a pro baseball player when he was a youth. And, that dream became a reality Wednesday when the St. Bonaventure junior shortstop was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 13th Round (395th overall) of the Major League Baseball Draft.
Peterson was one of two area players selected on the day, as former Ridgway standout Josh Mitchell, a redshirt junior pitcher at the University of Pittsburgh, was taken in the 22nd round by the Kansas City Royals.
“It’s definitely a dream come true,” said Peterson. “I always thought it could happen and hoped it would happen. My first dream was to play Division I baseball, and I got that opportunity thanks to Coach (Larry) Sudbrook and Coach (B.J.) Salerno at St. Bonaventure. They took a chance on me and gave me this opportunity (to be drafted).
“When I got the call from the Tigers, it was an unbelievable moment. It’s what I’ve been working for since Little League. Throughout the year, I talked to scouts and was getting positive feedback on how I was playing. When these three days started (draft was Monday through Wednesday), I was just waiting to see what happened.”
Ironically, Wednesday marked four years to the day when Peterson tossed a three-hit shutout as a junior to help lead Johnsonburg past Canton, 5-0, for the 2013 PIAA Class A state title.
“I didn’t realize (at first) it was the four-year anniversary of us winning the state title,” he said. “We were just waiting to see what happened (with draft), but it’s definitely weird to think that four years ago we won the state title and now four years later on the same day I get drafted.
“Whether it’s 2013 or 2017, this is a day (June 14) that I will never forget.”
Back then (2013), he was playing for his father Jeff, who the younger Peterson puts at the top of a long list of people who helped get him where he is today.
“There are so many people I have to thank,” said Peterson. “The list could go on forever, and they all have been a part of this dream. It all starts with my mom (Terry) and dad and older brother (Seth). When I was younger, if I wanted to play catch or take BP (batting practice), my dad or brother would do it with me.
“My dad also coached me in Little League and high school. My mom has always been there supporting me along with the rest of my family — grandparents, cousins, my little brother (Cade) — and friends. I also need to thank my other high school coaches and Coach Sudbrook and Coach Salerno.”
One only needed to make a trek to St. Bonaventure the past three years to see the following Peterson had at most of his college games.
Now, it appears that large supporting cast will be sporting Tigers gear to watch Peterson play after Detroit’s scouts obviously liked what they saw from Peterson. He put together his best collegiate season in his third year starting for the Bonnies. He was the first middle infielder drafted by the Tigers this year.
Peterson also credits his father with helping him overcome the one knock against him throughout his baseball career — his size. He is listed at 5-11, 155 pounds on the Bonnies roster.
“The weakness everyone has always told me I’ve had is my size,” he said. “I know I can continue to get stronger, but the size things has always been with me. My dad always told me, ‘Just do what you can do, and people will see you can play.’
“I’ve used that (advice) since Day 1 in Little League up through high school and on into college. Now, I’m ready to take it to the next level.”
Anyone who has seen Peterson play at any level knows his size hasn’t hindered him all that much.
Peterson has always been known for his defensive prowess, amassing a .966 career fielding percentage and turning 76 double plays while starting 144 straight games for Bonaventure after assuming the shortstop from Day 1 as a true freshman.
The former Ram really turned the corner with the bat this season and led the Bonnies in batting average (.335), runs (40), hits (64), on-base percentage (.409), doubles (16) and stolen bases (24). He tied for the Atlantic 10 Conference lead in stolen bags and posted 19 multi-hit games, including nine three-hit games.
In conference play, Peterson hit even better — posting a .376 average and .444 on-base percentage on his way to being named the A-10 Conference First Team shortstop.
Sudbrook wasn’t lost on the impact Peterson has had on the Bonaventure program the past three years. The veteran Bonnies coach has gone as far as to say Peterson is the best defensive shortstop he has coached in his 32 years with the program.
“Cole continued to make himself better through his work ethic,” said Sudbrook. “He has great hands, feet and a strong arm defensively and has continued to improve with the bat to the point where he was a viable candidate for the top player in the Atlantic 10.
“We have had a couple other shortstops get the chance to play professionally, but defensively, Cole was heads and tails above anyone else we’ve had.”
Peterson said being selected by Detroit was somewhat of a surprise, as he had talked to them a little prior to the draft, but had more extensive talks with teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees, New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks.
“When I saw some of those (other) teams selecting shortstops (earlier), I wasn’t sure what might happen.” he said. “I had talked to the Tigers some, but they didn’t seem to be one of the frontrunners before the draft. But, it feels great to be drafted by such a great organization.”
Peterson said he plans to sign with the Tigers and forego his final season at Bonaventure. By becoming a Tiger, Peterson would have the opportunity to play somewhat close to home as he ascended through Detroit’s farm system.
Detroit, which has a couple rookie league teams in the Gulf Coast League, have Class A affiliates in Connecticut, Michigan and Lakeland, Fla. Down the line, Peterson could play Class AA ball in Erie, while the Tigers’ AAA team is in Toledo, Ohio.
“I’m going to sign, and I’m super excited to get to work wherever I go,” said Peterson. “No matter where I went (team), my plan was to sign. But, it’s nice that it was more of an East Coast team, and it will be easier for my family and friends to come see me play when they can.”
Peterson is the 14th St. Bonaventure player selected in the draft during Sudbrook’s tenure and 16th Bonnies player taken all-time. Only two Bonaventure players have ever been selected earlier in the draft than Peterson.
One is current teammate Aaron Phillips (junior pitcher), who went to the San Francisco Giants in the ninth round on Tuesday and is now the highest pick in program history.
Brian Pellegrini was selected by the Houston Astros in the 12th round of the 2007 MLB Draft. Elk County Catholic graduate Jesse Bosnik, also a shortstop for the Bonnies, went to the L.A. Dodgers in the 13th round in 2010 and was taken 17 picks later than Peterson.