Home Run Derby

In "The Music Man", River City Mayor Shinn talks about the weather being "chancy". Fellow Iowans know what he meant. Why, they even start the high school baseball season toward the end of May and finish it in July so they can get games played instead of postponed. In 2002 that meant a rare home run chase.

Researchers had discovered that two players, Jeff Clement and James Peterson, both had shots at the all-time national high school home run record. When the season ended, Clement held the mark, Peterson finished second. Yet, neither received pro offers to their likings so both went off to college.

Clement, by far the most publicized, went to the University of Southern California. He's kept on building his stature; so much so, that now draft eligible again, he's expected to be among the early players taken in this coming June's selection process. Peterson stayed in Iowa to attend Indian Hills Community College where he proceeded to rip 24 homers (along with 22 doubles and four triples). Then, he had misfortune.

He ripped up a knee so badly that an operation ensued and many teams considering drafting him early instead backed off. So far, that the Dodgers were able to pick him up in the 16th round. They felt he had so much potential that they signed him later that summer even though he couldn't play at all. They then assumed control of his long rehabilitation process.

Peterson, a first baseman, finally got back onto the field in 2003. Playing for the Gulf Coast Dodgers, he hit a respectable .295 with six homers and 14 doubles. However, there were times when he seemed uncomfortable at the plate. Was his knee still bothering him? "No," he replies. "It was all the rust I'd gathered. I hadn't played in over a year."

Now, at last, he says he has all the mobility he needs and the Dodgers agree for they've sent him to the outfield where such movement is much more required. To right field, to be specific, because he seems to have the arm for that position.

So, now he's at Columbus where he's off to a slow start like a lot of other touted hitters on that squad. At this time, he's only sent one out of the yard while slowly building his batting average over .200. But, there's a long season ahead and the notion is that this 6-0 210-pounder has more than enough muscle to force his way forward as a long-ball threat.

A left-handed hitter, this 21-year-old from Winterset has the potential to do just that. And, after all, he's not used to playing in April anyway. That "chancy" weather, you know.