PHILADELPHIA—Heralded more for its basketball program, Temple is hardly known as a haven for baseball prospects.
Since 1992, when the Tigers drafted Bobby Higginson in the 12th round out of Temple, the Owls have had just one winning season and produced just four draft picks.
But come next spring, scouts might be flocking to Philadelphia—and they might do a double take.
That’s because Temple is armed with a pair of Petersons: junior pitchers and identical twins Patrick and Eric. The duo headlines Temple’s weekend rotation as the program makes its initial foray into the newly formed American Athletic Conference. They have their sights set on turning around the team’s recent baseball misfortunes.
“For us, the goal will be to make the AAC tournament and then go from there,” said Patrick, the team’s Friday starter.
“It’s going to definitely be a step up in competition from the Atlantic-10, but we’re excited about that,” echoed older brother Eric, just a minute Patrick’s senior. “We play teams now that were in the Big East, like Louisville and UConn, so that definitely will be a step up. But we know we can play with them, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Cut From The Same Cloth
The brothers have much more in common than just their desire to win this spring. For starters, they each enjoyed incredible high school careers while attending the Charter School of Wilmington, Del., where both of them set separate state records.
Patrick, a lanky 6-foot-3, 190-pound lefthander, was 7-1, 0.94 with 110 strikeouts in 56 innings as a senior. He issued just four walks all season, establishing a state benchmark for control.
Eric, a slightly more physical 6-foot-4, 215-pound righthander, posted a 5-0, 0.53 senior season. But it was one performance his junior year—a 20-strikeout masterpiece—that earned him a Delaware state record for most punchouts in a seven-inning game.
Surprisingly, though, the brothers weren’t highly recruited, receiving just one Division I offer, which made their decision to attend Temple easy.
“At the time, I was at Richmond. I’d come up to the Delaware-Pennsylvania-Jersey area and recruit, but I actually never heard their names,” third-year Owls head coach Ryan Wheeler said. “So when I got the job, a high school coach said, ‘Hey, you got two kids coming that I think are going to be pretty special, these kids the Peterson twins.’
“And now here we are a few years later and they’ve put themselves in such a great position for the draft and have had a really solid first two seasons.”
Initially, the brothers weren’t expected to make a huge impact as freshmen. Both sat in the mid-80s that fall, but their stuff took a leap forward when they stepped up their conditioning. Patrick moved into the weekend rotation that spring, going 3-4, 3.51, while Eric fortified the Owls’ bullpen, throwing 49 innings in 17 appearances.
“I think the main thing was going to the weight room and getting stronger, and that has really helped over the last few years,” Patrick said. “We didn’t really lift that much in high school, so we definitely got a lot bigger during and after our freshman year.”
It was then that Patrick added the first of several collegiate awards to the Peterson family mantel, earning A-10 rookie of the week honors when he came within three outs of a no-hitter against Saint Louis in late March.
The twins spent the following summer in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, ranking fourth and fifth on the league’s top prospects list, before joining up in the weekend rotation as sophomores. And on April 6 against La Salle, Eric racked up 10 strikeouts in his own near-perfect game, as the twins’ careers continued to mirror each other.
“When I went into the ninth inning, (Patrick’s no-hit bid) was definitely one thing I thought of. I guess I wanted to do something that he couldn’t do,” Eric recalled with a laugh. “But we actually lost (our no-hitters) in almost the exact same way, too, giving up a double to start the ninth. It was really cool to be able to do what he did just, you know, a year later.”
Patrick briefly pitched in the Cape Cod League to start this past summer, the first time in their lives the twins had not played on the same team. But they reconvened in the Coastal Plain League shortly after and posted eerily similar results: Both threw exactly 21 2/3 innings, both had 3.32 ERAs and struck out exactly 32 hitters.
“They’re certainly cut from the same cloth,” Wheeler said. “I still can hardly tell them apart without their gloves on.”
Despite their genetics and their statistics, the brothers are pitchers of a different breed. Aside from handedness, Patrick and Eric also feature different stuff and styles.
“I kind of like to rely on my changeup a lot when I pitch and Eric relies more on his curveball,” Patrick said.
An Easy Comp
Heading into their sophomore campaigns, Patrick was seen as a slightly better prospect, thanks in part to his sterling rookie year, but also due to his lefthandedness, his deceiving changeup, and his smooth, easy motion that produces 87-90 mph fastballs.
But after Eric fired five consecutive eight-plus-strikeout performances last spring, the thin gap between the twins’ talent has narrowed even closer.
“I think that we’re becoming more similar pitchers because I’m starting to throw a changeup a lot more and Pat’s throwing his curveball more,” said Eric, who features more of a power arsenal, capable of reaching 92 mph with run and sink.
“Yeah,” Patrick agreed. “I’ve helped Eric out with his changeup and it’s gotten better, and Eric has helped me with my curveball and it’s gotten a lot better too, so now we are similar in the way we pitch, at least more than we were when we first got to school.”
Wheeler, who was an assistant coach at William & Mary when the Tribe featured future big leaguers Bill Bray and Chris Ray, thinks the Petersons—along with righthanded reliever Adam Dian, the No. 13 prospect in the Northwoods League this summer—have the potential to play at the next level.
“I was very fortunate to have guys like (Bray and Ray) when I worked at William & Mary, but I think the separator with those guys was that they realized the other stuff that goes into pitching a little earlier. You know, the conditioning, the weight lifting, the running—that aspect of it, so those guys really made that jump a little sooner,” Wheeler said. “But I think that if Pat and Eric put their mind to it, they could make that type of jump and be special and be high-round draft picks.”
Twin brothers reaching the major leagues is among the rarest of baseball family feats, according to Baseball-Almanac.com. In all, just nine pairs of twins have accomplished it, the most recognizable of whom are Jose and Ozzie Canseco.
Last spring, David and Ryan Ledbetter, the Rangers’ third and 19th-rounders, respectively, out of NAIA Cedarville (Ohio), began their attempt to become the 10th twins to don big league jerseys. Perhaps Temple’s Petersons will race them to the top.
“Maybe, it’s a possibility,” said Patrick.
“It would be kind of cool to both be drafted by the Twins,” Eric joked.
The more they pitch, the stronger the possibility becomes.