John Peterson – Minnesota connection, a California manager’s dream

Minnesota connection, a California manager’s dream
Written by Bob Otto on June 8, 2010

“He brings a rare combination of veteran experience in a young pitcher.”

– Manager Dave Carlton about pitcher, John Peterson

Story by Bob Otto/OttoinFocus

(click banner for original news story at OttoinFocus)

LAKE CRYSTAL, MN – The 2010 fastpitch softball season has been a big thrill for John Peterson of Lake Crystal, Minnesota. And why not? After all, how many Minnesota fastpitch players get to board an airplane on Friday afternoon and fly to sunny California and play ball on the weekends?

Well actually, with the shortage of pitchers in the men’s game, the odds are pretty good that some team in need of good pitching will call.

So for those windmillers with the talent, they can basically point anywhere on a U.S. Atlas Travel Guide, and say, “I think I’d like to pitch there.”

That’s not quite how it happened for Peterson, but you get the point.

Born and raised in Lake Crystal, Peterson signed on with the Cal-State Builders from the San Francisco Bay Area. And it’s been nothing but fun, said the 26-year-old, 6-foot-1, 260 pounder who declares his drop ball and change up his two best pitches.

“I like this group of guys; we’ve really hit it off together,” said Peterson. “California has been a great time and I’ve been able to see new teams.”

The Cal-State Builders of the San Francisco Bay Area

But how did Peterson, who plays for a local Lake Crystal team, get connected with the Cal-State Builders over 2,500 miles away?

The answer: Friendship.

A job transfer sent Jon Abbott, who was also born and raised in Lake Crystal, to San Francisco. Abbott – a standout catcher and infielder – was looking to hook on with a team. He connected with Cal-State Builder’s owner and manager, Dave Carlton, and soon everything started falling neatly in place for Peterson and Abbott.

“Skipper (Carlton) asked Jon if he knew of any pitchers in Minnesota,” Peterson said. “Jon and I are good friends, and he suggested me.”

And what a good suggestion that has turned out to be for the Builders.

“John has been the workhorse with a 10-3 record and one save,” said Carlton. “It’s been a difficult transition to face the ISC (International Softball Congress) major hitters, but he has stepped up in every situation.”

And in their very first meeting, Carlton tested Peterson’s mettle. He pointed Peterson to the rubber in the eighth inning of a scoreless international tiebreaker game. And Peterson came through, picking up the win in the 10th inning.

“He showed strong composure,” Carlton said. “He set the tone for the Builder’s season with that game one performance. He brings a rare combination of veteran experience in a young pitcher.”

The Builders are off to a great start with a 17-4 record. And in large part to Peterson, who has a 10-3 record. In 56 innings, the right-hander has allowed 29 earned runs, struck out 66, and carries a 3.6 ERA. But if two games with highly-ranked ISC major teams are discounted, Peterson’s stats shine with a 10-1 record, 49.2 innings pitched, 59 strikeouts, and sterling 1.55 ERA.

But there’s something else Carlton appreciates about Peterson: His bat.

“He has the ability to hit in clutch situations and has a .478 batting average with runners in scoring position,” Carlton said. “John has given the team a huge lift on the offensive side as well.” In fact, Peterson’s 19 RBI place him second on the ball club to Dave Demaio’s 21.

Dave Demaio, leads the Builders in RBI and carries a .489 batting average.

Now, let’s take a look at the other side of this Minnesota connection – Jon Abbott.

Abbott is the son of former fastpitch player, Chuck Abbott. And he seems to have inherited his father’s hitting genes. The younger Abbott’s .500 batting average (21 for 42) is second among Builders with a minimum of 30 at bats, and his 15 RBI are third highest (tied with Ricky Sivilla and Doug Cain), while his quick feet have stolen 10 bases – tops on the ball club.

“Jon brings a rare combination of speed and power to the top of the lineup,” Carlton said. “He calls a fantastic game behind the plate, and coupled with his outstanding middle infield play, he really is a manager’s dream…”

I wanted to learn more about Minnesota’s John Peterson, so he agreed to a question and answer session from his Lake Crystal home.

Q: What’s the experience been like pitching for the Cal-State Builders? It’s been a step up from what I’ve usually played. It’s made me realize pitching against teams like IAC (Italian Athletic Club, Stockton, CA) and Portland (Portland, OR Columbia River Rockers) that you’ve got to have good location with your pitches. If it’s over the plate, they’re going to hit it.

Q: How did you get your start in fastpitch? My dad (Jim) and brother Matt, 28, played, so I was always around the ballpark. Lake Crystal is a good fastpitch town.

Q: You played boy’s fastpitch as well? Yes, my dad and my uncle, John Herbst, coached our team. We played in the 14, 16, 18, and 23-Under tournaments (and won several national ASA and NAFA championships). We have a bunch of Lake Crystal dads who played. I had a lot of mentors.

Q: Did you start out as a pitcher? No, I played first base and outfield. We had a few pitchers on the team, then when they started pitching less, I started pitching more.

Q: Are you still pitching in Minnesota? I still pitch for Weggy’s (Bar & Grill of Lake Crystal, a long-time devoted men’s and boy’s sponsor). I like to play with my hometown boys. We’ve got a mixture of ages from 24 into the fifties.

Q: How do you feel about the designated hitter? I like to bat when I pitch. I told coach (Dave Carlton) that I like to swing the bat, so I hope I can keep doing it. I get to bat and play some first base when I’m not pitching.

Q: What other sports did you play? I played baseball and wrestled for Lake Crystal Welcome-Memorial High School. Our wrestling team finished third in the state my senior year, and I wrestled individually at the state tournament.

Q: Has any family joined you on your trips to California? My brother Matt came with me to the (Best of The West tournament) to watch me play. But our catcher pulled a calf muscle, so Matt got to catch three games.

Q: What’s the shape of men’s fastpitch in Minnesota? Our league has six teams and it does seem that not as many young guys are playing. We need more young guys when the guys in their 30s and 40s start quitting. It’s not dying out, but it is declining.

Q: What are the goals of the Cal State Builders for 2010? We’re trying to play good ball and play in the (ASA) “B” National Tournament in Salem (Oregon), and NAFA AA in Des Moines.

Q: Next season is long way away, but as of right now would you like to return to the Builders? I like this group of guys and if the skip (Dave Carlton) wants me back, I’ll do it.

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