JUPITER, Fla.—Todd Peterson's first experience with USA Baseball changed his game.
The 16-year-old righthander was a member of Team USA's 15U squad when they won gold at the Pan Am championships in Colombia last year and Phil Enright, head coach of Peterson's travel team, believes he came back from that trip a better player.
“I've been coaching him throughout the summers for about three years now," CFBL 2016 Select's head coach said at USA Baseball's 17U National Team East championships. “Obviously he's gotten bigger and stronger over the past three years.
“Last year was big for him, being able to be a part of the 15U national team was pretty exciting for him and he learned a lot. As a program and an organization it was really good for us, to see a guy selected and able to play in that. It helped him mature a lot and realize what it meant to play for Team USA and that was very cool for him."
The tournament in Colombia was one that the 6-foot-5, 220-pound righty won't soon forget, and the experience is something he is hoping to duplicate in the future with another shot at the national team.
“It was definitely the experience of a lifetime," Peterson said. “Going up there was crazy, it was awesome, it was fun, and everything was different. It was awesome playing for Team USA and representing everybody in the country and going up there and doing our thing …
“It was a huge confidence boost making Team USA. I'm just using that to push me more. It was fun and it really pushed me to work harder and go out and try to make other Team USAs."
Brooks Webb, USA Baseball's director of the 15U national program, was impressed with what he saw from Peterson on and off the mound during his squad's 8-0 run in Colombia.
“He's definitely a power pitcher with a great frame on the mound," Webb said. “He sat 87-88 and could get it up to 90 when he needed to, and was probably one of the better strikeout pitchers that we had at that age group. He had good numbers for us, he was 1-0 in 5 2/3 innings, allowed no earned runs, had five strikeouts.
“As far as personality-wise, he was definitely one of the guys who kids gravitated to in the dugout, always cracking jokes and always picking up his teammates. Overall he's a great kid with tremendous upside and somebody we were proud to have on the team. He's definitely got a bright future on the mound."
Added Enright: “He's a great kid, first and foremost. It relates to him on the field. He takes those qualities out on the field and goes out and competes hard when he's out there."
With a repertoire including a fastball, curveball and changeup for his CFBL team, Enright is looking forward to seeing how much further Peterson can progress.
“Being 6-foot-5 at his age with ability to throw in the upper 80s and low 90s at his age is pretty impressive," Enright said. “He's still growing. He's got a long way to go as far as where his capabilities are. He's got a high ceiling."
Everyone who's seen the native of Lake Mary, Fla., pitch is looking forward to seeing more of what he can offer, with Webb echoing Enright's sentiment.
“He's a physically imposing guy," the national team director said. “When you're facing a 15-year-old who is 6-foot-5 and about 200 pounds who is throwing close to 90 miles an hour, a lot of hitters are a little bit afraid to step in the box.
“He knows that he has to continue to work hard and develop his secondary pitches. He had a very good curveball for us and if he can continue to develop a third pitch he can be really dominant as he continues to advance in high school and onto college."