Brian Peterson has been in the Reds organization for four years now, after starting his career with Cleveland. Once known primarily as a defensive specialist, Brian broke out in 2004 at AA, hitting .300/.361/.444. Right now he is looking like the most likely candidate within the organization to unseat Jason LaRue in the coming years. Brian was kind enough to take a few of my questions last week, for which I am very grateful. He'll likely be reading the comments below, so feel free to shoot him a thank you for taking so much of his personal offseason time to answer my questions.
1) You really seemed to be in a groove last season with the bat. What do you think caused your hitting to improve?
I got sick of being the defensive catcher without the offense. I wanted to be the guy who turned heads and was noticed. Mechanically, I needed to be able to turn on that inside pitch, rather than taking it or fouling it off. I've always seemed to be able to handle the outside pitch well. I try to move runners and get guys in from 3rd with less than 2 outs. And most importantly I am faster than most catchers, and I can bunt. The 7 or so bunt base hits when I wasn't feeling great at the plate were lifesavers.
2) I've seen you described previous to last season as a defensive specialist. Do you put in a lot of work when it comes to defense or do you work more on your hitting? Which comes more naturally to you?
Defense was always something that just came "naturally." That was something that was always easy for me. I feel like you have more control defensively than you do offensively. I've always had a strong arm, but I was a streaky hitter. Good one year mediocre the next. If you're going to move up, these days you have to be able to do both.
3) Have you noticed a big change in the organization since Dan O'Brien took over as GM? What has the team told you that you need to do to make it to the next level, be it AAA or Cincinnati?
I've noticed that Dan O'Brien always has his ears open for ideas. He is still in the learning process as well. Meaning, with this organization, getting to know how things had been in the past. I had the opportunity to sit down to dinner with him this past October in Arizona. He was open to suggestions from us, and asked us how we thought the organization has been running since he took over the reigns. He was a very player friendly boss, not intimidating. The Reds have told me nothing. I got an invite to Major League Spring Training this year, my first, and am very excited. I feel like I just need to start where I left off last year. I need to continue to be successful at the plate, take care of my pitchers, throw runners out, and be a leader. I'm the quarterback on the field. If I do these things I know in my heart I will be rewarded some day by playing in the Major Leagues. If not with the Reds, with someone else.
4) I know that you started out in the Cleveland organization. Could you talk a little bit about how you came to Cincinnati, and what differences you've seen in the two organizations?
One seems more political than the other.(Cleveland). I injured my right shoulder in the spring of 2001. I rehabbed for 6 gruling weeks in extended spring training. When I became healthy in May 2001 I was released. I felt like all my childhood dreams of playing baseball were over. A week later I got a phone call from Tim Naehring inviting me to the last week and a half of their extended spring program. He said, "We have 4 catchers here already and the draft coming up, but come on out and show us what you can do." The next thing I knew I was in Billings, MT, and then Dayton,OH 3 weeks after that. The Reds gave me a chance to show off my ability(and play), the Indians never did.
5) What do you do to train during the offseason?
I make sure I give my body enough rest after the end of the previous season. Then I work like a madman to go further in the weight room than the next guy. I try and make a difference that everyone will notice in Spring Training. To show everyone how hard I worked to try to get to the next level. I don't want to have any excuses for myself, or regrets.
6) What do you enjoy most during Spring Training?
Spring Training to me is all about bonding with teammates that will ultimately be your friends for life. Getting together as a team. It's just a lot bigger than the one you play with during the season. It's a fresh start for everybody. The 300-yard shuttle. Kidding.
7) What kind of an impact did your Arizona Fall League experience have on you? Do you think it helped you as a player and do you think it increased your standing in the eyes of the organization?
I felt like they read the names off wrong when they called out who was going to Arizona. I was shocked. I didn't realize that I had that much purpose in this organization. It was an honor. I got to play with and learn from the best players in all of minor league baseball. It felt like a month long all-star game. I'm happy I did well there, maybe it opened some eyes and maybe not. Whichever it is, it won't make me work any less, just harder.
8) I'm really sorry about Dernell Stenson, but I wanted to give you an open platform to reflect and discuss your former roommate. Your mother mentioned to me that you were Dernell's roommate, and that you wore his number last season. Could you talk a little about the impact he had on you?
He was the definition of a great ballplayer. The kind of guy that would hit 4 HR's in a game and then turn around later and answer the question, "how'd you do tonight?" He would say, "I did alright." Very humble. I learned the value of how important family is, in life and in baseball. He was just a great person to be around, always smiling. I wrote a letter/poem for his family telling them how wonderful their son was. Things they already knew. I ended by saying that I would dedicate the rest of my career to play for him. This past year especially. 2004 I played for Dernell Stenson. I even wore his number 26. It was to be retired when I asked Frank Burke, Lookouts owner, if it could have one more year in the sun. His son Kobe James was throwing out the first pitch at the all-star game in Chattanooga along with Dernell's older brother. That was just more motivation to succeed. I caught the first pitch at the all-star game last year with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes. He made me a better ballplayer, but most importantly, a better person.
9) You happen to be in the organization that once had Johnny Bench wear this "C." Are there any major leaguers from the past that inspire you? How about the present? Someone you'd compare yourself to?
Wade Boggs was my favorite player growing up, but people that overcome adversity are the ones that inspire me. The ones with the never quit attitude. Former Red Corky Miller inspired me a little bit. He was in the same boat I was. Never been drafted free agent signee. No politics, or million dollar signing bonuses to move us up the ranks. Just old fashioned hard work and determination. Hopefully I will be where he is someday soon.
10) What is your biggest motivation for making it to the big leagues? Besides more money, big cars, and nicer hotels. = )
I'd like to wake up in the morning after having the 'I'm in the Big Leagues dream' and actually be there. Instead I go to sleep and a couple of nights later have the same one all over again. I would like to take every worry and woe my mother has and flush them down the toilet. I would like her to be able to live comfortably for the rest of her life without any worries or bills. It would also be nice to help out friends and family that aren't as fortunate as me moneywise. Be able to send my brother to college wherever he wants to go. And how cool would it be to walk through the mall and see someone wearing a shirt or jersey with your picture or name on it. Wow. Maybe a bobblehead? The heart pounding feeling knowing 50,000 people are watching you right now and another million are watching you on the tube. I want to be on my death bed someday and be able to say my dreams came true.
There you have it. Thank you Brian.