ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Hitting peas and frozen ropes is not anything new for the Peterson brothers. It’s simply how they learned to hit.
D.J. Peterson, a junior at New Mexico, is generally considered a first-round talent who has a chance to be the Lobos’ highest-ever selection when major league teams settle in for the First-Year Player Draft that begins June 6.
And Dustin Peterson, whose Gilbert (Ariz.) High team was eliminated in early May from the state tournament, could join his older brother as a first rounder, which would make them just the second pair of brothers to go in the first round of the same draft.
“I’ve been hearing some talk about that,” Dustin said. “But you never know what could happen. Really we’re just waiting and seeing. But that would be a dream come true. It is something else.”
MLB already has invited D.J. to New York for the draft show, but he’s hoping his younger brother joins him on that first-round stage.
“It would be unreal,” he said. “It would be a dream come true, not only for me and him, but for my parents as well. The draft is just step one in a long career and we know that. If we both were to go in the first round, it would be pretty unbelievable. It would probably put me in tears because I would be really proud of him as well.”
It would also put the Petersons among such lofty baseball royalty as the Drews (Tim, J.D. and Stephen), the Uptons (Justin and B.J), the Weeks (Jemile and Rickie), the Weavers (Jeff and Jered) and the Youngs (Dmitri and Delmon) as brother duos in the first round.
J.D. and Tim Drew, in the 1997 draft (when J.D. didn’t sign), remain the only brothers drafted in the first round of the same draft.
“Those are some pretty high names for us to try and make our Peterson name with,” D.J. said. “It would be fun. It would a good challenge.”
And the Petersons, in part, can attribute their success to their dad’s affinity for frozen vegetables.
That’s because when they began to find it too simple to smash the golf-ball-sized whiffle balls their father Doug would chuck in their direction, he began hurling frozen peas and lima beans instead.
“I wanted them to hit something smaller and sunflower seeds didn’t have enough heft to them,” Doug Peterson said. “The peas and lima beans were heavy enough and I was still able to get some movement on them.”
And even then, he took precautions.
“I had to wear sunglasses so they wouldn’t hit me in the eyes,” the elder Peterson brother said with a chuckle.
That’s just part of a hitting regime that began soon after the brothers were toddling about.
“I’ve actually got video of them in their diapers swinging a bat,” dad said. “They chuckle about it. They could barely stand up. I bought them one of those bam-bam bats and threw whiffle balls to them. They weren’t hitting it very good underhanded so I told my wife I was going to try throwing overhand. They started whacking that thing all over the back yard.”
Those may be some of the reasons the brothers each have uncanny bat speed, said New Mexico coach Ray Birmingham.
“They’re almost like cookie cutters,” Birmingham said. “Almost the same kid. It’s amazing. I’m trying to evaluate it like a hitting guy. I’ve sat with their dad and asked him questions about their evolution because I want to be the greatest hitting coach ever. He gave me a lot of insight.”
Although Dustin, who hit .549 with 10 homers as a senior for Gilbert, signed with Arizona State just down the road from his hometown instead of New Mexico, there’s a chance he will never don a Sun Devils’ uniform.
“I have had both on my mind, college and the draft,” he said. “If the opportunity is there in the draft, I will do that. If it doesn’t go the way I want, I still have ASU.”
Seeing both brothers among the top-30 players may not come to fruition, said a scout who covers Arizona and New Mexico for an American League team. Dustin Peterson’s defensive tools fall short of most teams’ profiles of a first-rounder.
“The odds are not very good,” he said. “But they both have the ability to hit. They’re really good hitters at this point.”
D.J., who completed a second straight Mountain West triple crown by hitting .400/.518/.805 with 16 home runs and 67 RBIs, is almost a surefire first-rounder but Dustin may fall into the second round, depending on teams’ needs.
Dustin may go “late in the first round or he may not,” the scout said. “It just all depends on what teams are looking for and how much they like him.”
A strong mark in their favor, he said, is their mental makeup.
“Both kids have turned out to be pretty strong mentally,” the scout said. “I think that’s a big asset.”
Still, their ability to drive a baseball from foul line to foul line with authority is what has drawn scouts from all over the country to see the brothers.
“Here’s a typical day at Lobo Field with D.J. around,” Birmingham said. “I’m standing there and there’s a little guy next to me. A lot of scouts were there to watch BP with the team. I asked him if he would like some breakfast and he said, ‘Coach, I appreciate it. I might get some.’ I said, ‘Good. I’m Ray Birmingham. He said, ‘Pat Gillick.’”
Glen Rosales is a freelance writer based in Albuquerque.