Keeping it Simple

WASHINGTON, DC: After spending years in the minor leagues learning the intricacies of a defensive position players work very hard to be ready for their chance to impress the big league staff with how far they have improved since joining their organization.

So imagine being invited to big league camp for the first time in your career with the knowledge that you are going to be playing a third base, a position that you have never played in the minor leagues or for that matter in college or high school either.

"I just try to take the same approach as I do anywhere," said a smiling Jace Peterson in spring training on his experiences at third. "The ball is hit at your or near you, try to catch it. You are going to make errors whether you have prepared for it or not."

"You try to get in as much preparation as you can, but you have to catch the ball wherever you are."

Throughout his life Jace Peterson has always been a pretty busy guy who has had to keep it simple to accomplish as much as he had. At McNeese State in Louisiana he starred on both the football and baseball teams while also being an academic All-American.

At Hamilton Christian High School in Moss Bluff, Louisiana, his schedule was even more compact as earned all-state honors in football, baseball and basketball and also threw the javelin for the track team. He also didn't only "play" four sports he played quarterback and defensive back on the football team and both pitched and was at shortstop on the baseball team.

"You want to keep it simple because pressure is what you make it," Peterson said on how he managed his time. "Sports can throw a lot of stuff at you. The best way to go about it is to keep a level head and just attack it."

Despite having a shot at playing in the NFL, baseball always came first with Peterson. So when the Padres drafted him with their supplemental first round pick in the 2011 draft, he jumped at the chance.

But many saw the Padres as drafting more of an athlete than a baseball player.

"He has bad mechanics, doesn't field balls cleanly, a flat contact focused swing but he does run well," said Kevin Goldstein, at that time the Managing Editor of Baseball Prospectus and now the Pro Scouting for the Houston Astros.

"For a shortstop he is not a lanky fast-twitch athlete that you usually see, but a rather compact six-foot-one 210 lbs., so, no, I'm not that crazy about him."

But despite concerns that the Padres drafted an athlete instead of a baseball player, a scenario somewhat similar to their first round selection of Donovan Tate in 2009, Peterson has performed at every level that the organization has sent him too.

In his debut year in Eugene he stole 39 bases in 67 games to go along with a .360 on-base percentage. With a full season, and more importantly an off-season devoted only to baseball activities Peterson showed remarkable improvement finishing second in the Midwest League in stolen bases with 51 in 64 attempts while doing his best work with runners in scoring position hitting .339/.435/.487 with overall numbers of .286/.378/.392 at Fort Wayne in 2012.

His best season came last year with High-A Lake Elsinore when in the second half when he hit .318/.414/.494. Peterson finished fourth in the Cal League in triples with 13 and also clubbed 17 doubles. On the base paths he stole 42 out of 52 bases along with a significant improvement in his defensive range.

"Jace has maintained his athleticism but has translated it into baseball," said Randy Smith the Padres' Vice-President of Development and International Scouting. "He still has that football mentality of grinding it out but he learned how to channel it into the long baseball season."

After a stint in big league camp this spring, Jace got off to a good start in AA San Antonio hitting .311/.386/.392 before getting the call to big leagues after a road game in Frisco.

"I was getting on the bus and Rich Dauer {the Missions' manager] asked how I feel and I said fine. He said that is great because you are getting ready to go to the big leagues."

Peterson was called up to the big leagues to replace Padres' third baseman Chase Headley, who went on the disabled list. Once again Peterson was called upon to play a position that the shortstop had only limited experience at, third base - although as opposed to the spring, he actually did have one start at third base in San Antonio.

In his first major league at-bat, Jace did what he does best focus on what is in front of him not what is around him and hit the first big league pitch he saw straight up the middle.

"I know it's a cliché, but I was just looking for a pitch to hit and I got a fastball. Wasn't trying to do too much, just stay relaxed."

With the Padres he hit only .174 in 23 at-bats before being returned to the minor league in AAA El Paso where the organization plans on playing him at second and third base in addition to shortstop.

With Chase Headley in the last year of his contract and many pundits believing that current Padres' second baseman Jedd Gyorko's best position is third, Peterson could have a very realistic chance of being the big club's everyday second baseman in 2015.

Just don't tell him that during hunting season.

Anyone who follows his Twitter feed is amazed that there is any wildlife left in southwestern Louisiana after Jace and his friends finish one of their many off-season excursions.

"[I am a] big time hunter," smiled Peterson. "Grew up doing it since before I can remember and it is one of those things that are in your blood and I love it.

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