Peterson's Back And Blasting Bombs

In an extended spring game, a Dodger hitter connected with a pitch squarely whereupon it rose in a high arc headed for left field and surely beyond. But the Marlins fielder turned and ran, then ran some more to catch the ball as it descended some 390 feet away. The man waiting in the on-deck circle, turned and commented sadly, "I don't know how you could hit it better than that."

That it was just another long out is a way of life in the extended camp games, played on cavernous practice fields where the fences trail away to beyond 400 feet and the winds often blow in off the Atlantic. This, combined with the youth and inexperience of the hitters, makes sending a ball out very much a not-often occurrence.

The Dodgers field two teams that alternate playing. The squads have combined so far for a total of 11 home runs. So, when you hear that one player has hit almost half of those- five to be precise- you have to figure he has some serious power packed in his swing. And you'd be right.

Jim Peterson has always been known as a long-ball bomber. Why, in high school, back in Iowa, he ranked second on the all-time list for the entire country just behind fellow Iowan, Jeff Clement.

He has the kind of sock that would usually get someone drafted in the early rounds. Alas, he also has had almost as many injuries as the Yankee pitching staff.

A bad knee kept him sidelined in junior college so the Dodgers were able to get him in the 11th round in 2003, knowing he wasn't able to play that season but hoping that patience would pay off. He had an operation on the knee and rehabbed to finally debut in 2004.

Even though his hitting base was often affected by the injury, he sent six out in the Gulf Coast League, which plays on those same spacious fields. He finished with a .296 mark to seem well on his way.

But the next season, he was cut down again by an injury- a broken hand so even when he was able to play, his swing was severely hampered.

He was playing for Columbus at the time and when his average dwindled to .243 with only two homers, he decided that he couldn't play the game in the manner that he should so notified the front office that he was retiring.

It was back home to Iowa where he attended a nearby junior college to acquire his associate degree in business. But there was always the feeling that he hadn't been able to give the game anything near his best. And his hand injury finally healed.

This past winter he called the Dodgers and asked if he could return. They were delighted to answer "yes" so he came in see if he still had it.

It would seem that he does as those home run totals would indicate He sent No. 5 out in only his 23rd at-bat. And none of those shots have been cheap for, as noted, these fields simply don't allow that.

His batting average is almost .400 as he seems to hit the ball solidly almost every time up. That, as the players say, is raking.

Peterson swings form the left side and is a solid 6-0, 217. He arrived in the organization as a first baseman but they converted him to the outfield in 2005.

The same thing occurred in this camp. Overstocked with first basemen (Kyle Orr, Jaime Ortiz, Rick Taloa and Jesus Gomez are also on hand), they moved him back to the field.

He's been doing well there, too. There is one problem, though. "I'm old," he says. He is 23 which is a bit on the geriatric side for this camp so he's naturally anxious to go where his production could really count.

He'll no doubt be obliged for power production like he's been showing is a commodity to be prized. And if he can just stay healthy he can again evoke the kind of projection people felt he was going to produce back when he was launching shots into the beyond in Iowa.

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